Far out! SFU to build $4.4-million astronomical observatory by August

When I attended Simon Fraser University way back when, one of my favourite first-year classes was a physics course called Introduction to Astronomy. Well, that course would have been much more interesting with an astronomical observatory on campus.

SFU has just unveiled its plans for such a facility on Burnaby Mountain: the $4.4-million Trottier Observatory and Courtyard. To be located near Strand Hall, the observatory will feature a 0.7-metre-diameter reflector telescope under a six-meter-diameter dome. The university expects it to be completed by August.

According to an SFU news release, the telescope will have a digital feed and be remote-controllable by community groups and schools. Next to the dome, a viewing plaza will offer sundials and space for people to set up portable telescopes.

There'll be a 0.7-metre-diameter reflector telescope under the dome.
SFU

A donation from the Trottier Foundation is making the observatory possible. SFU is also opening the Trottier Studio for Innovative Science Education, which will host hands-on science workshops for kids in the Shrum Science Building.

Comments (5) Add New Comment
Stefan Mochnacki
Very good news. I do hope that money has been set aside to fund a technician/tutor/demonstrator to look after this observatory on a daily basis. And contrary to what Prof. Trottier suggests, such a telescope can be used to do quite significant research, especially given its remote observing capabilities and despite Vancouver's lousy weather.
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Pat Crowe
The most important consideration with deep space viewing is wash out from artificial{city} light. That shouldn't be a problem from the centre of Burnaby and right next door to the brightest city in the Pacific Northwest should it? Get real. If the machine can be operated remotely why not have it up off of the Coquihalla?
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Vivian
I think an astronomy hub is a great idea and could effect the surrounding community. I remember notices in our accommodation on Oahu to turn off all exterior lights so as not to effect star viewing from the observatory. A home light can add up into a community and when everyone pitches in it makes a different. I think darkness is a great solution to light pollution. I love the first images of this video featuring views of the stars through the trees and forest. We need an observatory so we can see the magnificent sky and all the glittering galaxies. Hawaii has challenges in itself to its international level observatories including the ash from volcanoes. There is no reason it wouldn't work on Burnaby Mountain.
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blah
Wow, for a bunch of educated people, this is a really stupid thing to do. Did they ever wonder why nobody else builds observatories in the middle of cities??? Oh wait, we're from British Columbia - the laws of the universe don't apply here.
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Howard Trottier
Hello Stefan, Pat, Vivian and blah: I'm the Trottier who is heading up the SFU observatory project, and I hope you might like to get a (belated) reply to your posts straight from the horse's mouth :). The reason for putting the observatory in the middle of a suburban area is because it is meant first and foremost to serve the public, as well as SFU students: so we are putting the observatory where people can easily get to it - in the city ;). We have been holding public "star parties" at SFU for seven years, using portable telescopes (sfu.ca/starrynights): two weekends ago we hosted more than 200 visitors, mostly young families, on campus, to see the supernova - you need only hear the expressions of wonder from kids (and adults!) when looking through a telescope to appreciate the value and impact of this kind of public outreach. We expect to have thousands of visitors per year when the observatory is up and running - so we *purposely* accept the limits of light pollution. BTW, the Space Centre has its public outreach observatory right across from downtown! And despite the light pollution, there is no end of exciting things to do with a telescope of this size and sophistication, and every reason to make it available for remote operation by schools in the interior. We will invite schools to submit competitive proposals for time on the telescope, and those that get time will conduct the entire operation remotely: opening the dome, slewing to the target, taking pictures or spectra, whatever - an extremely exciting educational experience. Finally, we know that this telescope can be used for research, in certain limited but interesting areas (supernova searches, near-Earth asteroids studies, among others), however these kinds of projects typically require lots of observing time, over extended periods, and we will have difficulty finding enough observing time just to satisfy our public outreach and student education programs. If on the other hand a valuable research proposal comes along that makes sense in the context of our primary objectives, then we'll take it ;). Wow, a very long post: I hope it gives you a better sense of what we are up to, and why. Howard.
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