Observing Programs

RASC Observing Programs with Certificates 

booklet.jpeg The RASC offers seven observing programs for members to promote active observing, based on a selection of lists published in the RASC Observer's Handbook. By successfully completing a program, a member may apply to the RASC for an official certificate for that program. Observing programs are a great way to challenge yourself, learn more about the night sky, and get the most out of our challenging and rewarding hobby.

Explore the Universe Logo EtMlogo.jpg Messier logo FNGC Logo IWL Logo
  • Explore the Universe—A program for the new astronomer covering all major astronomical objects, including constellations, bright stars, the Moon, deep-sky objects, and double stars. The program can be completed by observing with the unaided eye and binoculars, but a small telescope may be used as well. The EtU certificate is available to all, whether an RASC member or not.
  • Explore the Moon—A beginner-level program based on the RASC Observer's Handbook lunar observing content, intended for those starting to observe with binoculars and/or telescopes.
  • Messier Catalogue—Take a stroll through astronomical history as you follow Charles Messier's 18th-century journey through the northern skies. His famous list of 110 "not comets" includes some of the most spectacular objects visible from mid-northern latitudes.
  • Finest NGC Objects—A slightly more difficult list for the experienced observer, developed by SkyNews Magazine Associate Editor Alan Dyer. The Finest NGC Objects includes a further 110 objects, mainly from the New General Catalogue.
  • Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program—The RASC's lunar observing program for intermediate-to-advanced observers. It includes a comprehensive list of the best features visible on the surface of the Moon and detailed observing notes and explanations that will guide you through a complete tour of the amazing surface of our nearest neighbour in space.
  • Deep-Sky Challenge Objects—These 45 objects challenge even experienced observers and require the use of both small wide-field instruments as well as large aperture to complete.
  • Deep-Sky Gems—A lengthy list containing many interesting, plus a few challenging, objects for all observers.


The Role of Sketching in Observing

Sketching objects to earn observing certificates is NOT mandatory, but it is actively encouraged. There are spaces provided in the various observing log pages on offer, but they are OPTIONAL. However, a written description is required, with or without a sketch. When we encourage observers to sketch, we are not looking for artistic renditions, although several observers do have artistic skill and apply it. For the purpose of earning and observing program, the (optional) sketch can be quite basic. The sketch simply provides an “aide memoire,” a way of remembering what you saw. Many observers find that making even a rudimentary sketch of what they see makes the experience far more enriching.

Certificate earners of note:

  • In 2017, Vance Petriew of RASC Regina completed all of the requirements for the Explore the Universe certificate, plus he observed all of the variable stars, where nobody else has ever recorded observing a single variable star, a comet (Comet Petriew), an asteroid (Vesta with the unaided eye), Pluto where almost nobody else has ever even reported seeing Uranus, and the gegenschein and zodiacal light where nobody else has ever reported the zodiacal light. A great accomplishment!
  • Also in 2017, Melody Hamilton of RASC Halifax earned her 5th RASC observing certificate, making her the most-certified RASC observer! Her certificates include: Explore the Moon, Explore the Universe, Messier Catalogue, Finest NGC and Deep Sky Gems (only the second person ever to earn this certificate). Melody sketched everything!

The RASC's observing certificate programs are supported and managed by the Observing Committee.

Last modified: 
Monday, January 29, 2018 - 5:44pm