RASC Award Winners 2023
RASC AWARD WINNERS 2023
The RASC awards a number of honours each year to promote and advance astronomy in Canada.
This award is given at the President’s discretion, usually once a year, to a member or members who has/have made an important contribution to the Society.
of Montréal Centre
This year’s President’s Award recognizes the pioneering efforts and vision of an extraordinary youth member of the Society. Emilie Lafleche agreed to chair and create a new committee within the Society to address the needs of, and attract, young Canadians with an interest in Astronomy and the related Sciences. Emilie and her team represent a young, vibrant and diverse group within the RASC and in its first year created new awards and branding and “merch” and programs. They also put together a Youth Day for GA2021 and had a big influence on the entire General Assembly. As its terms of reference states, this committee serves to represent the unique viewpoints, values, and experiences of the Society’s youth members as they apply to their RASC membership, including a core dedication to upholding the ideals of respect, inclusivity, and diversity within the Society.
The Qilak Award recognizes individuals or groups that have made an outstanding contribution to the understanding and appreciation of astronomy in Canada.
of RASC National Office
Jenna Hinds began working with the RASC in 2018 as its youth coordinator. She quickly got the Astro-Bug and began to teach herself how to work with the RASC’s robotic telescope, eventually becoming the Chair of the Remote Telescope Working Group. Her work with new young RASC members eventually led to the formation of the NextGen Committee. She became active with the Education and Public Outreach Committee, and in general immersed herself in everything RASC. When COVID-19 disrupted the RASC’s operations, she played a key role in supporting the 2020 and 2021 Virtual General Assemblies. Ms. Hinds soon became the face of the RASC in our expanding Social Media footprint, and her efforts took her far beyond expectations, and her love of the Society and its members was evident in everything she touched.
Simon Newcomb Award
This award is given for excellence in astronomical writing by an RASC member.
of RASC Toronto Centre
Chris Vaughan is known as the “AstroGeoGuy” since he is also an Earth Scientist. Aside from his hard work at the Toronto Centre where he is an operator and tour guide for the David Dunlap Observatory’s 74” telescope, he is also the co-creator and presenter in their Skylab planetarium. In between his public outreach appearances, he writes a weekly astronomy news bulletin called Astronomy Skylights that is geared towards non-astronomers. In this newsletter, he not only points out what’s in the sky, he also explains things in an easy-to-understand manner and educates his readers, who can be found in all parts of the world. As well, Mr. Vaughan has been writing for Space.com since 2016, and he is also is a regular contributor to SkyNews magazine. His content is also used in the very popular app Star Walk 2 as well as the Starry Night software package. Most recently, Chris co-authored 110 Things to See with a Telescope, together with RASC member John Read of the Halifax Centre.
Ken Chilton Prize
The Ken Chilton Prize is awarded for a specific piece of astronomical research or work carried out or published recently.
Francois Chevrefil (SRAC) Michel Duval (SRAC)& Normand Amyot
Two members of the Centre francophone de Montréal, Francois Chevrefils and Michel Duval, plus a non-RASC member, Normand Amyot, have done outstanding research and reporting on the fabled “black drop effect” observed during the transits of Venus and, more recently, the transit of Mercury. The case of Venus’s transit is where the effect was first observed, whereby the planet’s disk appears to stretch into an oblong when right at the Sun’s cusp—the black drop effect. Francois Chevrefils has been a longtime member of the Centre francophone de Montréal, and served as president in 1998–1999. He is a keen observer, and he collaborates with Michel Duval on the Observer’s Handbook section, Coloured Double Stars, and the accompanying Supplement. Michel Duval, also of Centre francophone de Montréal de la SRAC, has written three articles for the Journal explaining the Black Drop Effect seen during the 2004 Transit of Venus and the 2016 Transit of Mercury. In their paper that appeared in the October 2021 Journal, “Effect of Diffraction Halos on the Position and Size of Baily’s Beads and Diamond Rings during Eclipses of the Sun,” they made a solid case that the effect, the cause of which has long puzzled observers, is a result of diffraction haloes distorting images, and have even shown that it applies to the solar eclipse Diamond Ring effect and Baily’s Beads.
The RASC Service Award is a major award of the Society given to a member in recognition of outstanding service to the Society and/or a Centre, rendered over an extended time of at least 10 years.
of St. John’s Centre
For most of his 20 years in the RASC, Robert Babb has served as an Executive Committee member of the St. John’s Centre, including terms as President, Vice President, and Observing Director. Mr. Babb has been a reliable volunteer at Star Parties, Science-in-the-mall days, Observe the Moon nights, for events related to eclipses, comets, and transits, new telescope owner workshops, Astronomy Day, and other centre public events. He has been a frequent speaker, writer, media contact and liaison with other groups. The St. John’s Centre’s efforts to establish an observatory have been helped tremendously by Robert’s expertise, experience and sweat equity. He is chief liaison with Provincial Parks personnel at the site where the centre observatory is being built, and the location of the St. John Centre’s annual Star Party.
of Niagara Centre
Philip has held many positions in the Niagara Centre since he joined the RASC in 2001. He has served as Secretary for more than 10 years. He also served as newsletter editor, he created and updated the centre’s social media pages, kept the membership informed by sending out bulletins on all centre events, and produced a centre calendar. Mr. Downey also gave new members instruction on the use and operation of equipment at the centre’s observatory. He has also led in outreach programs and made astronomy presentations at schools and service clubs.
of Niagara Centre
Robert Lewis has held many positions in the Niagara Centre since he joined in 2004, including serving as treasurer for 10 years and as webmaster for four years. He has maintained the observatory and the grounds, and he has brought outreach programs to the general public, schools, cubs, scouts, brownies, guides and service clubs. At any event, Mr. Lewis is usually one of the first there engaging with early birds on astronomy topics.
of Toronto Centre
Ron Macnaughton is well known in the Toronto Centre and around the Society for his presentations about astronomy in person and online. He has been a contributor to the Toronto Centre’s newsletter Scope and a frequent presenter at Recreational Astronomy Nights. In addition to presenting “The Sky This Month” occasionally, he also discusses a wide range of topics in astronomy that catch his eye. His presentations have drawn many viewers to the Toronto Centre’s Youtube channel. He has been a participant in work parties at the E.C. Carr Astronomical Observatory and at our various outreach programs conducted in co-operation with the Ontario Science Centre and the University of Toronto. He received the Ontario Volunteer Service Award in 2017 in recognition of his contributions to Toronto Centre education and public outreach programs. At the national level, Ron served for several years on the Society’s Education and Public Outreach Committee. He continues to encourage members across Canada to become more active observers and participate in the Society’s many observing programs.
of Saskatoon Centre
Merlyn Melby is a life member of the RASC who first joined the Saskatoon Centre in the 1970s. Since then, he has held various positions within the Centre, including newsletter editor, General Assembly organizer, builder and councillor. During Mr. Melby’s stint as editor, he raised the quality of the newsletter creating better content, a more professional look and higher quality printing with the intent of putting the newsletter onto local bookstore shelves. He helped organize the 1982 Saskatoon General Assembly and participated in many public outreach events. Mr. Melby, however, is best honoured as a major builder of the facilities of the Saskatoon Centre, including its three club observatories, the first being the snow-block Igloo Observatory, the permanent Rystrom Observatory (1977 – 1997) and the Sleaford Observatory (1997 to present). His meticulous work created the high-quality observatories we continue to use to this day.
of Saskatoon Centre
In his two decades in the RASC, Tenho Tuomi has rendered great service to the Saskatoon Centre and at the national level. He is the author of the Digital Astrophotography section in the Observer’s Handbook, served as the first chair of the RASC Astroimaging Committee, and helped developed the Astroimaging Certificate. He has served as newsletter editor and on the board of the Saskatoon Centre, and he has conducted outreach activities around the province of Saskatchewan and at events like the Saskatchewan Summer Star Party, often with the help of his wife Velma.
of Saskatoon Centre
After 25 years as an active member of the RASC at the Saskatoon Centre, Barb Wright has recently retired to Victoria and has become an active member of the Victoria Centre. During Ms. Wright’s time in Saskatoon, she held several positions including President, Vice-president and Event Coordinator. Barb was also an organizer of the Saskatchewan Summer Star Party for more than 20 years and has attended the star party as Chair or a volunteer for all 24 years of the star party’s existence. Barb also represented the Saskatoon Centre at more than a dozen General Assemblies and was also an organizer of and the Chair for the 2009 General Assembly at Cypress Hills/SSSP. Barb organized and participated in over 100 public outreach events in Saskatoon and area. She also organized many of the Saskatoon Centre’s social events, club and guest speaker suppers and its Christmas meeting socials.