The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory celebrates 100 years of astronomical discovery

News release

The National Research Council’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory
The National Research Council’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory celebrates a hundred years of great discoveries in astronomy. The building shown here under a beautiful night sky is home to the Plaskett telescope which has been in operation at the site since 1918.

May 3, 2018 – Victoria, B.C. – National Research Council of Canada

Today, staff and friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory gathered to recognize a century of discovery and celebrate the telescope that helped shape early knowledge of the Milky Way. On May 6, 1918, the first light fell onto photographic plates at the Plaskett Telescope, beginning research at the Observatory and propelling Canada onto the world stage of astrophysics.

The Plaskett Telescope was Canada’s first major “big science” project to be funded publicly. For more than three decades, as one of the three largest telescopes in the world, it enabled major astronomy discoveries. The Observatory has made many contributions to international astronomy, including John Stanley Plaskett’s definitive work on the structure of the Milky Way, followed by subsequent research into binary stars, the study of stellar X-ray sources, stellar-mass black holes, and pioneering advanced optical instrumentation for clearer pictures of our universe.

As part of the celebration, a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque from Parks Canada was unveiled, recognizing the Observatory as a national historic site. National historic sites are places of profound importance to Canada as they bear witness to our country’s defining moments and illustrate its human creativity and cultural traditions.

Since joining the National Research Council of Canada, and managing Canada’s participation in some of the world’s most powerful telescopes, observatory staff has continued to advance human knowledge of our universe, through partnerships in Canada and around the world.


Additional multimedia

Mr. Iain Stewart, President of the National Research Council of Canada and Dr. Brent Slobodin, Yukon Representative from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada unveil a plaque designating the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria a national historic site.

Quotes

“Canada’s participation in some of the world’s most powerful telescopes has allowed Canadian universities and industry to work on some of the most ambitious projects and greatest puzzles in astronomy.  It is exciting to consider not just the century of discoveries behind us, but also those ahead.”

– Mr. Iain Stewart, President of the National Research Council of Canada

“The Canadian astrophysics research community is consistently ranked amongst the top in the world. I’m proud to celebrate the origins of that success, today. The observatory’s centennial provides an opportunity to celebrate Canadian contributions to international astronomy, and a rare look at where 100 years of fundamental research can ultimately lead.”

– Dr. Greg Fahlman, Director General of the Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre at the National Research Council of Canada

Quick facts

  • The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory was instrumental in launching the field of astrophysics in Canada.

  • The Plaskett telescope design was so successful that it was copied in seven telescopes around the world.

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Contacts

Media Relations Team
National Research Council of Canada
613-991-1431
1-855-282-1637 (24/7)
media@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca


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