Awards for 2021 Observer of the Year Award

Our recipient this year is a visual observer with a difference: she makes meticulous logbook entries, including sketching what she sees at the eyepiece. And she shares them with us on Facebook, and on the Astro email group.

She does this for a noble purpose, right in line with our mission: as she said on a Facebook post on the Centre FB page exactly one year ago:

“I am thinking that this year I am going to start sharing my visual astronomy logbook entries in this site. I am hoping to motivate people new to the visual astronomy hobby by sharing my experiences. This way others can learn what is up in the sky, what can one see from the city etc … I hope that other visual astronomers will start sharing their observing sessions too.”

And so she did.

Keeping logbooks and sketching objects seen through a telescope has a long and honourable history, of course, going right back to Galileo.

Indeed, if Galileo were to come back today and become a member of our Centre—which he undoubtedly would—he would be amazed by our astroimagers, and I’m sure he would sign up for our Astroimaging cafes.

But he would want to go to dinner with the sketchers.

And sit right next to Berta Beltran.

It is my honour to present the 2021 Observer of the Year award to Berta Beltran.

Awards for 2020 Observer of the Year


Our center has a number of gifted observers. I read your reports on Astro or in Stardust and am impressed by your dedication and attention to detail, a skill that I must presume takes years effort to master. Of the reports I read one in particular jumped out at me, 2000 NCG’s. To accomplish that feat is something I could never imagine myself doing. This observer has also conceived and executed a Messier marathon – marathon where 110 objects are observered and running 42km in a single night. I have to sit down for a few minutes after just setting my scope up. So this year’s Observer of the Year award goes to Warren Finlay.

Awards for 2019 Observer of the Year Award

While it is said a picture is worth a thousand words, it takes a real talent to use words to paint a picture in one’s mind. While an observation can be a solitary thing, a well written report of an observation can be shared. For years now this award recipient has put his observations into such descriptive text, that the reader cannot help but see what the observer saw with their own eye. I have long admired the recipients writing of his observations, as they normally tell not just what was seen but why and how the subject observed came to be. I was very much in admiration of his report of daylight occultation of Venus by the crescent Moon on July 31 that, even though there was no photograph, was a first rate example of observational reporting, and for this and many more such reports I award the 2019 Observer of the year to Bruce McCurdy.

Awards for 2017
Observer of the Year Award
Larry Wood

At a time when telescopes are commonly computerized, and many people collect photons in their cameras instead of their eyes, it is refreshing to find someone who observes the cosmos without a CCD camera or a goto telescope. Larry Wood is legendary for his eagle-eyes and ability to identify faint fuzzies. Larry is a regular observer at Blackfoot, regularly brings his telescope out to the Victoria promenade for public observing, and answers all sorts of questions on the Astro email list.

Awards for 2016
Observer of the Year Award
Warren Finlay

I have known this member for almost 10 years, but I started to get to know him well at the David Thompson Bicentennial Star Party in Jasper when, observing through partly cloudy skies, we debated about the star Algieba (hence known as the great Algieba Fiasco of 2011). This person is an accomplished observer. In fact, this individual is a bit of a renaissance man – scientist, author, athlete, musician, observer, astroimager, and oh yeah, bagpiper. Over the years, this person has been the driving force for establishing a dark sky observatory for the Centre.

At one point during the 2015 Glacier Skywalk Astronomy Tour, the idea of combining a Messier Marathon with a running marathon came up. We were kidding around at the time, but it turned out this person was serious, because by March 2016, he and I found ourselves at La Perouse, Maui, Hawaii to conduct the first-ever Bimarathon – an event conceived by this person that combines the Messier Marathon (observing 110 deep-sky objects) and a regular running marathon (running 42.195 km).

Starting at sunset March 9, 2016, he began running and interspersed 6 running sessions with 5 telescope/binocular observing sessions, running a distance of 42.2 km and observing the required 110 deep-sky objects before local sunrise on March 10, 2016. He observed about half of the objects in a manually operated GenStar 10″ Dobsonian telescope and the remainder of the objects with binoculars, except for a handful that he observed naked eye.

For successfully completing this unique mental and physical challenge, it is my pleasure as a fellow observer, to award the Observer of the Year for 2016 to Warren Finlay.

Awards for 2015
Observer of the Year Award
Mike Noble

2015_observer_wardThis member challenged himself to observe and image as many nights as possible in 2015. Judging by his numerous posts to Astro, I would say he was out practically every clear night. He observes mostly with a camera, but Mike Noble is out just about every night putting on a lot of kilometers looking at something. During the 2015 noctilucent cloud season for example, he observed and imaged NLC’s on 44 of 49 nights during which NLC’s were present. His efforts to travel to clear skies and monitor the skies with digital cameras, yielded what is probably an all-time record for NLC sightings in one season. This avid observer also alerted many of us to auroral displays and routinely gave excellent descriptions of what he saw from many and varied places in Alberta. So, it is my pleasure to award the Observer of the Year for 2015 to Mike Noble.

Awards for 2014
Observer of the Year Award
Jay Lavender

2014 Observer of the Year - Jay LavenderHe’s one of those guys who has all the time in the world…as long as he doesn’t have to leave the house—or so it seems. His most common mode of observing gives him somewhat better chances of attaining success only having to look at one target during the day. His shots of the sun have successively improved, each showing more of the fine structure. Beyond that he also gets out in the night at many events, to show the wonders of the sky to passers-by. More than just a one trick pony! So, it is my pleasure to award the Observer of the Year for 2014 to Jay Lavender.