Home to Newfoundland's only professional telescope, the observatory was opened in 2012 and is now welcoming about a thousand visitors per year, with special programming available for youth groups.
The observatory is a natural tie-in to the B.Sc. degree program in physics at the Grenfell Campus which is focused on subatomic physics and astrophysics. The two of our most popular courses, Physics 2150 (The Foundation of Astronomy) and Physics 2151 (Stellar Astronomy and Astrophysics) are open to all Grenfell students and have night classes held on Wednesdays.
Inside the 6-metre aluminum dome of the observatory are several telescopes with instruments to record and analyse the light received from distant astronomical objects. Sliding shutter doors on the dome open to reveal a "slit" in the dome roof to allow the main telescope to look at the sky, but protect it from wind and stray light. A controlling computer program automatically rotates the whole dome with the telescope to keep it looking out of the slit.
The main telescope is a reflecting design called Ritchey-Chretien Cassegrain which uses two mirrors. It was designed and manufactured by DFM Engineering Ltd. of Colorado. Its main mirror is 60 cm (24") in diameter, giving it almost 10,000 times the light-gathering ability of the human eye! The faint light from distant objects can be collected in this large "light-bucket", then focused through an eyepiece for direct viewing or into instruments for analysis.
The telescope is equatorially mounted with computer-controlled tracking motors to compensate for the motion of the Earth, allowing it to track objects in its field of view as they appear to move across the sky.
Two smaller special purpose telescopes are mounted "piggy-back" on the main telescope to take advantage of the main tracking drives. A refractor telescope serves to look at a wider area of the sky than the main telescope - although with less light-gathering ability from its 10 cm lens. The small Coronado solar telescope has a specially designed filter to allow safe viewing of sunspots and beautiful prominences along the Sun's limb during the daytime.
The separate, heated Control Room allows researchers to point the telescope and control its instruments remotely. The major astronomical instruments include a high-performance Apogee U6 fan-cooled CCD imager which is used to take timed exposures of astronomical objects, storing the light to build up a brighter image. A Shelyak LISA high luminosity spectrograph is used to record light that has been spread out into its many wavelengths.
We've also brought a little "outer space" to your space! The upper hallway study area of the Arts & Science extension has floor decals placed to represent the planets (plus Pluto) of our Solar System at their relative distances from the Sun. Be sure to walk through this Scale Model Solar System. Can you estimate how far away the next nearest star is at this scale?
The organized youth groups are welcome during regular work hours - please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book your tour providing a range of suitable dates and the number and age of participants. Or join us during our many special events, including public night-sky observation sessions, weather permitting. Please see “Events” tab for schedule.
The observatory is located at latitude N 48 deg 56 min and longitude W 57 deg 56 min.