On top of Observatory Hill, near Sidney B.C., at the National Research Council’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory lies the Center of the Universe and a gateway to the stars.
Described as an Interpretive Centre, the Centre of the Universe is a new kind of museum, so to speak,which has as its purpose the spreading of knowledge of a natural or cultural heritage.
The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory opened its doors in May of 1918. In 1995 the NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics made it their home. The NRC (the National Research Council), is the number one organization for research and development in Canada, with Technology Clusters, Research & Educational Programs, Marine Life and Ecologically Conscious initiatives stretching out across the country. It’s truly an extraordinary facility, in which the Centre of the Universe resides.
The Plaskett Telescope
The Plaskett Telescope, named for John Stanley Plaskett, the Observatory founder, also made its debut in 1918 and is considered to be the centrepiece of the Centre of the Universe as far as the general public is concerned. The Plaskett is a 1.8-m telescope, which for a very brief period of time was the world’s largest, and has been the 2nd largest telescope on planet earth for quite some time. With the help of some of the most recently developed technology which can capture even faint light signals of objects which are at spectacular distances, the Plaskett is now 10,000+ times more sensitive than when it was first entered into use. The Plaskett’s original purpose was to study the stars motions to understand the structure of the Milky Way, the galaxy in which our home planet Earth resides.
The discovery of Plaskett’s Star, and coming to understand the orbital motion of our solar system around the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy have been invaluable discoveries in the field of astronomy. Now used by professional astronomers from all around the world, to track comet and asteroid orbits, and to learn more about the nature of stars, and other astral bodies, the Plaskett is put to good use every clear night, approximately 200 nights a year.
There are numerous programs which someone wanting to learn more about this telescope or the facility can attend. There are courses, and special events, which include Star Parties, which I think sound like great fun, and these events feature the Plaskett Telescope.
Centre of the Universe Schedule
The Centre of the Universe is open for group bookings and school programs only between the dates October 1st – March 13th. The facility is open to all public during Spring Break and from May 3rd – September 30th. Take advantage of the spectacular views of both Vancouver Island and the heavens; enjoy the Centre’s interactive exhibits; discover the amazing world of astronomy; take a telescope tour of the constellations; and see the special presentations in the theatre – from what I hear you don’t want to miss the ‘Falling Asteroid’.
It is an enjoyable trip just driving up the mountain – be sure to watch for bikes as they seem to love the challenge of the vertical climb.
Have you been stargazing at the Centre of the Universe? What was your favorite part of the trip?
For more information about the Centre of the Universe, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.
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