Comox Valley Astronomy Club members Les Disher, Ian Darroch, Jon Lihou, Don Jacquest, president Francois Pilote and former president John McKee. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Comox Valley Astronomy Club members Les Disher, Ian Darroch, Jon Lihou, Don Jacquest, president Francois Pilote and former president John McKee. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Comox Valley Astronomy Club has eye on new members for future

Group holds Friday night sky-watching sessions throughout year

Star-gazing can mean looking at objects light-years away – in effect, looking into the past.

The Comox Valley Astronomy Club though is looking toward the future, as it ramps up for its next year.

Started almost 30 years ago, the non-profit group for a long time consisted of roughly a half dozen members united by a passion for astronomy. More recently, they have been adding some members and now number 22. Still, the group is hoping to get more people out, especially some younger members.

They hold their first meeting of the season on Tuesday, Sept. 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Vancouver Island Regional Library branch in Courtenay on 6th Street.

“Right now, it’s more of a get-together,” says Francois Pilote, the new president of the club. “It’s a network of people with the same interests.”

Pilote was in the military but is now retired. He spends much of his free time at astronomy but says he was always interested in it, back to when he was a child. He first came to the Comox Valley in 1990 and later came back to settle in Cumberland. He had fun teaching some students in Victoria through the Francophone association recently and was amazed but how much they already knew, so he hopes there are a few more aspiring young sky-watchers in the Comox Valley.

“My vision is to put the club on the map because no one knew about us,” he says.

Joining the club, Pilote says, doesn’t require a big commitment. The club holds a monthly meeting between September and June, usually with summers off. As well, the group holds sky-watching sessions on Friday nights throughout the year near the Exhibition Grounds where the farmer’s market sets up. Members will also set up the telescopes for special celestial events where they can offer people a good glimpse of phenomena like the moons of Jupiter, Saturn’s rings, the Perseids meteor shower, or even take a fresh, much-closer look at our own moon.

READ MORE: Photographer captures Perseid meteor shower

Pilote sends out a regular newsletter to members each week, with information on what they might see and the expected weather for the evening events, just to make sure they can see the night sky clearly.

The group has also come up with a new logo and now has a website. Pilote says astronomy doesn’t require a high-powered telescope because there is a lot in the sky that can be seen with a small telescope, binoculars or even the naked eye. Part of the aim of the club’s viewing events is to get people to come out and experience the thrill of the universe by taking a closer look with the help of some experienced guides on hand. He is encouraging anyone interested to get in touch with him.

“We’re going to help people get into the hobby,” says Pilote.

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