Every Saturday night, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) hosts Star Parties. Guests are invited to come and explore the cosmos from 7:30 to 11 p.m. The DAO has been hosting the free parties since the summer of 2016.
There are many activities throughout the night that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, says Program Manager Calvin Schmidt. Experts and amateurs alike can enjoy gallery tours, presentations from astronomers, Plaskett Telescope tours and viewings if the sky is clear, planetarium shows and a gift shop.
There are also things for kids to enjoy including crafts and a virtual reality station with many different simulation options including a walk through the International Space Station, Schmidt explains.
Credit for the existence of the observatory goes to John Stanley Plaskett. He wanted Victoria to become a mecca for science.
In 1910, the Canadian astronomer began the work of bringing his vision for Victoria to life.
After construction delays due to the war, the observatory was opened to the public in June 1918 — 101 years ago.
“John intended the observatory to be shared with the public,” says Schmidt, “and that’s a tradition we’ve kept going.”
Schmidt feels that the Star Parties are a great opportunity to learn and to spend time with family.
“It’s a great place,” he says. “It’s a combined piece of history and a currently used scientific device that’s right near where [we] live.”
The Star Parties will take place every Saturday of the summer until Sept. 7.
The free tickets can be acquired online before the events so organizers know how many people will attend, as they have a 200-person capacity.
Schmidt says the tickets often sell out, but that some people register for more than they need. Organizers re-release the no-show tickets at 8 p.m.
There are activities all throughout the night, he explains, so people can arrive at any time.