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New Member Brochure...

Welcome to the Montreal Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

The following information will give you a general overview of the Montreal Centre, its resources and activities. The intent is to inform  you of the various programs and services that the Centre offers. We encourage all new members to make use of the Centre facilities. These resources will go a long way towards promoting your development as an amateur astronomer.

Questions? Curious About Astronomy?

Centre Talks: This long-running lecture series presents major talks by professional astronomers, graduate students in astronomy as well as the Centre’s own members on various aspects of astronomy. Talks are scheduled on meeting nights as speakers become available. Approximately twelve lectures are presented during the year.

Montreal Centre Library

The Montreal Centre maintains one of the finest libraries devoted to astronomical literature in Canada. There are over one thousand books and bound volumes of magazines as well as a growing collection of videotapes of Centre lectures and commercial programs.

Many of the volumes are of a historical nature; indeed we have a few books that were first published in the nineteenth century!  At the same time, our librarian strives to acquire some of the very latest books on cutting-edge astronomy of both the professional and amateur variety.

We have books that deal with every aspect of astronomy from studies of the moon to research on galaxies and quasars at the frontiers of the universe.

The library is organized by topic. If you are interested in books related to amateur studies of the planet Jupiter, for example, you will find what you are looking for in the planetary section.

To borrow books from the library, you MUST be a member in good standing. Books may be taken out for a period of one month and may be borrowed for a longer period of time so long as you return the volume and request an extension from the librarian. The extension will be granted unless someone else has asked for the book. Fines for overdue books are $1.00 per book per month. Please note that some of the books in the library are on our restricted circulation list and may not be removed from the premises. Always check with the librarian first!


The Montreal Centre offers a program whereby binoculars or small telescopes can be rented at a nominal charge. Currently two pairs of 7x50 binoculars, a three-inch refractor, four-inch and six-inch reflectors and a 5-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope are part of the program. Information on current rates can be obtained by contacting the Centre directly or by e-mail.

Our Newsletter: Skyward

The Montreal Centre publishes a newsletter six times a year chronicling events and activities at the Centre. Its name is Skyward and it has the distinction of being the oldest, continuously published astronomical newsletter in Canada.

You will find a broad range of articles in its pages; everything from articles relating to events at the Centre through to articles offering tips on observing and getting the most out of your astronomical equipment. And the best thing is, all the articles are written by the Centre’s own members.

Observation-Related Activities

Every month around full moon, the Centre presents the Observers Group Meeting. The meetings are chaired by our Director of Observational Activities, who presents a brief overview of observing events visible during the month, as well as tips on how to get the most out of your observational activities. Members are encouraged to give short presentations related to various aspects of observational astronomy including astrophotography; visual observing; equipment acquisition, use and maintenance; or observing programs they are involved in.

Dark sky outings are organized on a regular basis.  The Centre has access to several observing sites in the surrounding region, the Morgan Arboretum, near Waterloo, and St-Chrysostôme in Quebec as well as Coopers Marsh and Williamstown in Ontario. These outings encourage observers to experience the full splendour of the night sky in a secure and comfortable environment.  A warm house is available at these sites with all the usual facilities. The Montreal Centre always has experienced observers present at these outings to help out novice observers.

Observing outing dates and locations are published on this web site, by e-mail, in the pages of the Centre’s newsletter Skyward, or at scheduled meetings.

These are not the only observing outings organized by the Centre. Occasionally, astronomical events, such as lunar eclipses, may be observed in the Montreal area. In cases such as these, activities are organized. In August each year, the Montreal Centre also makes a pilgrimage to Stellafane in Vermont, the oldest telescope-making convention in the world, where one can join thousands of other amateur astronomers from all over the world to experience the latest trends in amateur astronomy.

Interested in coming to an observing outing from May to September?

 We recommend that you bring the following items:

a)   Planisphere
b)   Flashlight with a red filter
c)   Binoculars
d)   Warm clothing
e)   Snacks and beverages
 f)   Bug repellent

The Montreal Centre recommends that novices do not rush out and buy a telescope right away. Wait until you know what kinds of observing you are interested in making, as well as which type of telescope will best suit your needs, mode of transportation and pocketbook! Take advantage of our friendly members who will be more than willing to let you observe with their telescopes and explain their good and bad points. Then, when the time comes for you to make a telescope purchase you can make a well-informed decision.

The Polar Bears Winter Observing Group

Some of the hardier members of the Montreal Centre still go observing throughout our longest season: winter! The nights are long and the sky full of wonders. Interested? Here is now to prepare to enjoy yourself and not suffer from frostbite or hypothermia. Keep in mind that you are not moving much when you are observing. Clothing is critical to the success of your evening out.

Polar Bear Gear: The Essentials

Layers is the name of the game. Start with undergarments made of wool or of a synthetic fabric such as Hollofil or Thinsulate. These fabrics retain their insulating qualities against the cold even when wet. Cotton does not. The synthetic fabrics are great insulators, light and soft but pricey. The next layer should be loose fitting and fluffy. Example: something made of Polartech or even wool would do. Many thin layers are better than a thick one. If you get hot you can remove clothes and stop the perspiration that will get you cold in the end. Wet clothes equal one frozen person in no time.

The third layer should protect you from the wind. A long coat that will cover you down to your knees is great at keeping air from travelling up your back as you bend to look at star charts, for example. Gore Tex is a good example for this layer but again, expensive. Duvet also does the job.


Wear a hat! You will otherwise find out that 80% of body heat escapes via your head, and will find it impossible to stay warm regardless of the number of layers you are wearing.

HANDS: Thin gloves under mittens are great, and even better when worn under mittens with cut-off fingers. Still cold? Places like drugstores, Canadian Tire, camping supply stores or "La Maison d’Astronomie" on St-Hubert Street sell pouches that you can insert in your mitts (they are also available for the feet). At one dollar a pair, they generate up to six hours of warmth and can keep you quite toasty!

FEET: Start with polypropylene socks or another type of wicking material and add wool socks. Plastic bread bags also double as a layer one sock! If that is not enough, add the warming pouches to your boots. If the above fails in keeping your toes toasty, you can buy battery-operated socks at a cost of about $40. They can be found at Canadian Tire and camping supply stores.

BOOTS: They should be warm, waterproof and go up to your knees. Consider buying them a size or two larger, so you can fit thick socks without being so tight that your toes will get cold from the compression.

HOT BEVERAGE: Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, they are all great at keeping your insides warm.

BE CAREFUL: Do not overdress as you are driving to the observation site. You will perspire, get wet and find it impossible to remain warm as you observe. It is a good idea to bring many pairs of socks so you can change as needed, as well as wear a pair of boots other than the ones you will be using to observe, while in the car. Whenever possible, bring a friend along and if you notice that your telescope refuses to move anymore, GET INSIDE! It is too cold!!!

Observational Certificates

The Montreal Centre and the RASC offer certificates upon completion of the following:

Binocular Observing Certificate: Offered by the Montreal Centre. A list of 40 objects visible in 7x35 or larger binoculars over a period of one year. A great way to familiarize yourself with the night sky and the constellations.

Lunar Certificate: Offered by the Montreal Centre. Presented to observers who locate and identify the 119 lunar surface features identified on the chart published in the RASC Observer’s Handbook.

Messier Certificate: Offered by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 110 objects first catalogued by the French comet hunter Charles Messier in the 18th century. These deep sky objects range from naked eye to telescopic targets. Included are galaxies, open clusters, globular clusters, nebulae and asterisms. Looking for a challenge? Then this is for you!

NGC 100 Certificate: Offered by the Montreal Centre. Presented to observers who locate and record any one hundred objects in the New General Catalogue of Clusters and Nebulae.

Finest NGC Certificate: Offered by the Royal  Astronomical Society of Canada. Presented to observers who locate and record 110 specific New General Catalogue objects listed in the RASC Observer’s Handbook.

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 © MMV, Montreal Centre
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
P.O. Box 1752, Stn. B
Montreal, QC, H3B 3L3 Canada
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