Saint Mary's University is hoping to partially outsource its exploration of the stars using social media and the collective eyes of people around the globe — and get kids interested in space in the process.
On Wednesday, the Burke-Gaffney Observatory unveiled its new telescope, the Planewave 0.6-metre CDK24 telescope, and a new observation deck.
According to the university, it's the most powerful telescope in Atlantic Canada and the second largest on a Canadian university campus.
"The views through the telescope are quite exceptional," said David Lane, the observatory's director.
"The new, larger telescope allows us to see things in the night sky we couldn't before."
The telescope is so powerful, it will be able to view light in the universe that is 2.5 billion light years away.
"This is really cool. Halifax and Nova Scotia are really a hotbed of astronomy in Canada. Canadians punch over their weight in astronomy around the world and Halifax — Saint Mary's University — is like the epicentre of Atlantic Canada for astronomy. So this is really big," said David Chapman, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
'Curiosity about the universe is inspiring and infectious'
Plans are underway to make the telescope completely interactive online and engage users on social media. Eventually, Twitter and Facebook users worldwide would be able to send a request to the telescope to view a specific area of the sky and search for celestial bodies.
When complete — hopefully within the year — it will be the first telescope of its kind with this interactive social media capability.
The new device is named in honour of Ralph Medjuck who, along with his wife Shirlee Medjuck, helped to fund the newest addition to the BGO.
"Saint Mary's students' curiosity about the universe is inspiring and infectious," said Medjuck in a news release.
"One look through the new telescope and one appreciates the importance of scientific discovery — and astronomy in particular."
The new observation deck and telescope will be accessible to the public through group tours and during regularly scheduled viewing nights.
The BGO was founded in 1972 in honour of Reverend M.W. Burke-Gaffney, the founder of the Department of Astronomy at SMU. In 1995, the BGO was the site of the first Canadian discovery of a supernova.