Calgary Area Observatory celebrates 50 years under the stars

It’s been 50 years to the day since the doors of the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory near Priddis, Alta., Were opened to the public – and as co-founder Alan Clark remembers, it was about as cold. that day than today.

Clark, who is also a professor emeritus in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Calgary, said the trip certainly did not look like 50 years ago.

“Strangely enough, I came from Britain at the right time – or at the wrong time, depending on how you look at it,” Clark said. The straight line.

“[It was decided] that one way to attract students was to start teaching astronomy, which many universities in North America had started to do. “

In 1970, Clark was commissioned to design an observatory to support the new undergraduate program in astronomy.

The program was eventually offered a quarter section of dirt by Sandy Cross, who was a top breeder.

Clark said that aside from the discoveries the observatory has made over the years, what makes him most proud are all of the students who have been trained over the years.

“Many of them have held very high positions in astronomy around the world,” he said.

In addition to education, the observatory also offers doors open to the public and offers various courses to high school students.

Rothney Astrophysical Observatory near Priddis, photographed in 1994. (Submitted by Rothney Astrophysical Observatory)

Of course, the observatory has also been host to discoveries, such as when Rob Cardinal, searching for an asteroid while using the Baker-Nunn telescope, found a comet instead.

“This comet now bears his name in perpetuity,” said Clark.

“It is to his credit that he rose to teaching astronomy courses on all of the reserves in Alberta. Being a native himself, he thinks this is a very important way to involve young people in science.

Clark said he wants people to visit the facility so that they can experience the wonders it offers.

“It was always about education,” he said.

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