Calgary-area observatory celebrates 50 years under the stars
Observatory offers open houses to the public and offers courses to high school students
It's been 50 years to the day since the doors to the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory near Priddis, Alta., opened to the public — and as co-founder Alan Clark remembers it, it was just about as cold on that day as it is today.
Clark, who is also a professor emeritus in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Calgary, said the journey certainly doesn't feel like 50 years.
"Strangely, I arrived at the right time from Britain — or the wrong time, depending how you looked at it," Clark told The Homestretch.
"[It was decided] that a way to attract students was to start teaching astronomy, which many universities in North America had begun to do."
In 1970, Clark was tasked with designing an observatory to support the new astronomy undergraduate program.
The program was eventually offered a quarter-section of land by Sandy Cross, who was a prominent rancher.
50 years ago today, we officially opened the RAO, on a very cold, sunny day, with Dr Margaret Burbidge, the benefactor of the land upon which the observatory stands, Alexander Rothney Cross, the chancellor of the University and many of its leaders and members of the Physics Dept. <a href="https://t.co/euPGmSO2Lk">pic.twitter.com/euPGmSO2Lk</a>—@RAOastronomy
Clark said that aside from the discoveries made by the observatory over the years, what makes him most proud is all the students who have been trained over the years.
"Many of whom have gone on to very senior positions in astronomy all over the world," he said.
Aside from the teaching, the observatory also offers open houses to the public and offers various courses to high school students.
Of course, the observatory has also played host to discovery — such as when Rob Cardinal, looking for an asteroid while using the Baker-Nunn telescope instead found a comet.
"That comet now carries his name throughout perpetuity," Clark said.
"To his credit, he has moved on to provide astronomical instruction for all of the reserves in Alberta. Being an Indigenous person himself, he feels this is a very important way to get youth involved in science."
Clark said he wants people to visit the facility so that they can experience the wonders it offers.
"It's always been about teaching," he said.
With files from The Homestretch