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Astronomical telescope on the way for Grenfell

Dr. Doug Forbes, science faculty member at Grenfell Campus, recently presented a talk about the astronomical telescope that will be situated in the Arts and Science extension.

By Pamela Gill

A new name, a new vice-president, and now: Space – the latest frontier for Grenfell Campus.

Over the course of the next few months the Corner Brook campus will see an astronomical telescope – the largest one in Atlantic Canada, costing $417,000 – installed in the observatory portion of the Arts and Science extension.

The extension is funded under the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, a two-year $2-billion economic stimulus measure to support infrastructure enhancement at Canadian post-secondary institutions, including universities and community colleges. Provincial funding is provided through the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s $4-billion, multi-year infrastructure strategy.

The telescope, being designed and built by DFM Engineering of Colorado, will house a reflecting mirror with almost 10,000 times the light-gathering ability of the human eye. It will be used primarily as a research and teaching resource for physics and astronomy faculty, staff and students. However, community outreach programs will also be an important part of its mandate.

“Public tours and observing nights will be scheduled, as well as remote-observing programs for provincial schools, and astronomy and physics-themed camps for high school students,” said Dr. Doug Forbes, who teaches physics at Grenfell Campus, and who has been overseeing the fabrication of the telescope.

Dr. Forbes explained that the telescope will be fully computer-controlled with tracking motors on an equatorial mount to compensate for the motion of the Earth, allowing it to maintain objects in its field of view. Within the dome, a 5 inch finder telescope and articulated eyepiece relay will accommodate the viewing public of all sizes and abilities. A separate "warm room" will allow observers to point the telescope and control its instruments – such as a high-performance cooled CCD – camera - from relative comfort.

“The astronomical research group at Grenfell will use the instrument to study galaxies, star clusters, variable stars, supernovae, asteroids, and extra-solar planets,” said Dr. Forbes.

It is anticipated that the telescope will be functional by fall 2011.