Top News

GRENFELL MATTERS: Watching the skies at Grenfell

David Howells photo
The Grenfell Observatory at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook is a tool available to students and members of the public alike.
David Howells photo The Grenfell Observatory at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook is a tool available to students and members of the public alike. - Contributed

On Feb. 19, the full snow moon will be visible in the night sky, and Corner Brook residents will have the opportunity to see this eloquent moon and the beauty of its surface.

Since a young age I have had a love for space, most likely linked to the countless hours of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” I watched with my father nightly following supper.

It was never the thought of living in space aboard a large ship that intrigued me. Rather, it was the ability to travel the infinite ocean of space and visit many vast worlds different from our own.

Grenfell Campus student Mallory Snow takes a peek through the telescope.
Grenfell Campus student Mallory Snow takes a peek through the telescope.

When I studied at Grenfell, I took all available astronomy courses offered but, unfortunately, my studies predated the installation of Grenfell’s astronomical telescope. Most of my observations took place at home with a terrestrial telescope.

In May 2012, the observatory opened here at Grenfell. Two years later, I was hired to work with the Physics Department, with the responsibility to operate and maintain the observatory. Working in the observatory has given me the chance to look at many of the planets and moons in our solar system, along with galaxies and nebulas in the northern sky.

The Grenfell Observatory houses a 60-cm Ritchey-Chretien Cassegrain reflecting telescope as the main telescope unit. Along with that, we also have a 10-cm refractor scope used for spotting and a Coronado solar scope specifically filtered for viewing the sun’s activity. A six-meter metal dome protects the equipment from the elements when not in use, and both the dome and telescopes are computer operated from a heated control room. Since the opening of the observatory, more than 5,600 visitors have had tours and many have been lucky enough to look through the telescopes when weather conditions permitted.

Tours operate both during the day and at night, and are offered to schools, university visitors, and local community groups. We also host public viewing events throughout the year, depending on what is going on in the sky.

The observatory is also used as a teaching tool for astronomy courses and through special collaborations with photography-based courses.

This year, as part of Corner Brook’s annual Winter Carnival, the Grenfell Observatory will again open its doors to the public. Observers will be given a chance to learn about Earth’s largest satellite, the moon, and will get a tour of the largest telescope in the province. As long as Mother Nature provides clear skies, visitors will view the moon through some of our smaller mobile telescope units before heading to the observatory for a much closer view from our main reflector unit. More information is available in the Winter Carnival booklet or www.grenfell.mun.ca/observatory

Steven Day is a physics laboratory assistant and observatory technician

Steven Day
Steven Day

Recent Stories