By Chris Gainor, Guest Editor and President of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
As the science, technology, and tools of astronomy evolve, we want to change and adapt how we engage with our favourite subject.
Since I was very young, I wanted to explore outer space. My dream was fuelled by witnessing the early astronauts and cosmonauts fly into orbit in the 1960s—historic events that inspired hours of lift-off and splash-down re-enactments with childhood friends. The first lunar landing in 1969 was the centrepiece of the most magical summer holiday in a schoolboy’s memory. Adventure, exploration, and the discovery of worlds unknown. I was spellbound.
While the futuristic dream of space travel occupied my childhood imagination, I soon found that astronomy allowed me to journey through the heavens without donning a spacesuit. Equipped with little more than a dark night sky, a pair of binoculars, and some rudimentary knowledge, this down-to-Earth hobby was a bridge to the universe and beyond.
The very human desire to experience worlds outside our own lies at the heart of the astronomy pastime. Exploring the infinite night sky gives us a deeper understanding of our place in the universe. That passion for cosmic knowledge is shared by everyone holding this magazine, and it’s the reason SkyNews has guided a vibrant community of amateur enthusiasts for 25 years.
Where astronomy goes, we follow. As the science, technology, and tools evolve, we too want to change and adapt how we engage with our favourite subject. I more fully appreciate the challenges and complexity of that particular journey in my capacity as guest editor of the first issue of a new decade.
This issue celebrates the numerous ways, some of them new to SkyNews, that we can engage with astronomy: the excitement for experienced observers in seeing rare celestial events (“Year of the Planets”); the novice’s sense of wonder at being introduced to the night sky ( “Treasures of the Night”); research insights from the University of Toronto that illuminate the origins of our solar system and, perhaps, of life on Earth (“In Search of Solar Siblings”); the history and human stories behind Canada’s role in astronomy and space exploration (“Rocket Man”); and the opportunity to combine our curiosity about what’s “out there” with the enjoyment of exploring space centres, observatories, and viewing sites on our home planet (“Between Earth & Sky”).
The night sky is accessible to all. Finding new ways to contemplate it, experience it, and enjoy it is fundamental to the pursuit. I’ve been a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for much of my life. Through that membership, I have met many of the world’s great astronomers. I have learned how to operate a telescope and, with time, build my own. Astronomy has broadened my personal horizons and defined my career as a historian of space exploration.
After 50 years as an amateur astronomer, I remain that spellbound boy at heart. I dream big when I gaze at the night sky. The sense of wonder in new discoveries will never leave me. That same feeling connects us as a community, and it excites us about the future.
Our vision for the next quarter-century of SkyNews is that we will continue to tell important stories about astronomers from every part of Canada who look into our skies. We want to share their discoveries of the wonders of the universe with a new generation of readers.
Here’s to another 25 years of adventure, exploration and discovery. Join us!