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Royal Astronomical Society celebrates International Astronomy Day on Saturday

Serena Aspinall-Hodroge blocks one eye as she exams the stars through a telescope set up by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in Montreal during Earth Hour on Saturday, March 31, 2012. Weather permitting, many eyes will be on the skies Saturday as members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada celebrate International Astronomy Day.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe

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Serena Aspinall-Hodroge blocks one eye as she exams the stars through a telescope set up by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in Montreal during Earth Hour on Saturday, March 31, 2012. Weather permitting, many eyes will be on the skies Saturday as members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada celebrate International Astronomy Day.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe

MONTREAL - Weather permitting, many eyes will be on the skies Saturday as members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada celebrate International Astronomy Day.

Many astronomical clubs, planetariums, museums as well as the group's 29 centres are sponsoring a list of activities that include public viewing sessions and workshops.

Deborah Thompson, who runs the Toronto office, says telescopes and astronomers will be popping up in shopping malls and other public places throughout the day and into the evening.

International Astronomy Day was first celebrated in California in 1973 and Thompson said in an interview that Canada has been marking the event since the early '80s.

"It certainly is a great day to get out — especially for families — to learn all about astronomy," she said. "Our mission and our vision is to have more Canadians love astronomy."

The list of Saturday's events include:

— Display tables with books, telescopes and meteor chunks at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.

— An information booth at the Sunny Crest Mall in the coastal B.C. town of Gibsons, which will provide an opportunity to view sun spots and solar flares.

— Telescopes for an evening of stargazing in Windsor, Ont., at the Detroit River waterfront.

— An all-day booth at the Chapters bookstore in Winnipeg at Polo Park.

Thompson suggested Canadians check the RASC website at www.rasc.ca to get the listings of all events.

She also pointed out that the society has been kept quiet busy in recent years, thanks in part to social media.

Thompson said calls to RASC centres increased notably after major events like the meteor that exploded over the skies of Russia in February 2013 as well as Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's mission to the International Space Station.

"The great news about Chris Hadfield and his particular journey has really spurred the interest in astronomy for everyone, young, old male, female," she added.

The organization was founded in 1868 and brings together 4,400 amateurs, educators and professionals.

Thompson said local centres have received calls about rocks landing in backyards from people wondering if they are meteorites.

She said many people have called her wanting to buy a star for their wives for their wedding anniversaries.

"There's also the UFO thing," she said."We still get calls about UFOs, very rarely, but a couple of times a year. They're still out there."

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