The annual CASCA conference came to Victoria in part to celebrate the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory's 100th anniversary. (National Research Council of Canada)

For millennia, we’ve looked to the stars for answers to life’s great questions: who we are, where we’re from, and where we’re going.

In the spirit of that pursuit of knowledge, astronomers and educators are making their way from far and wide to Victoria this week for the 49th annual Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) conference, co-hosted by the University of Victoria.

The conference started on Tuesday, May 22, and will run the rest of the week until Saturday, May 26. This year marks the 100th anniversary of astrophysics in Canada.

Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physical properties of stars and other celestial bodies.

“The construction of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory’s Plaskett telescope in Saanich is broadly seen as the dawn of Canadian astrophysics,” says UVic astronomer Karun Thanjavur. “So it’s natural to bring the conference here for the telescope’s 100th anniversary, as we consider both the past and the future of the Canadian exploration of the universe.”

Star to be named in honour of Tsawout First Nation

One of the highlights of the CASCA conference took place on Wednesday morning during the opening ceremonies.

Dave Balam, a Dominion Astrophysical Observatory astronomer, presented a plaque to Tsawout First National Chief Harvey Underwood which named a minor planet “Tsawout.”

The naming is in honour of the First Nation and the importance of Indigenous knowledge of astronomy within the field.

Early Wednesday evening, a workshop for elementary and middle school teachers will focus on the Moon and will also include a session on local First Nations knowledge.

There are some opportunities for the public to get involved, too: CBC “Quirks and Quarks” host Bob McDonald will be hosting a public talk titled “What if everything we know is wrong?” Wednesday at 8 p.m.

McDonald is one of Canada’s best known science journalists, and has been bringing science to the public for more than 40 years.

Thor Tronrud, a graduate student in astronomy at UVic, says it’s great to have so much expertise meeting in Victoria for the conference.

“Astrophysics has been around for far longer than 100 years, and our universe is still incredibly mysterious,” Tronrud told Victoria Buzz over email.

“We continuously have breakthroughs and paradigm shifts brought about by new technology … so I think astrophysics will be important for centuries to come.”

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