Good morning, distinguished guests, colleagues, and friends across Alberta.I begin by telling you a bit about what the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory is, where we are coming from, and what we have been up to.
The RAO was constructed in the winter of 1971-72, thanks to a gift of a quarter section of land to the U of C from Sandy Cross. Alan Clark had designed the layout and ordered the first instrument, an equatorially mounted 16-inch telescope. I was hired in 1971 explicitly to train & instruct undergraduates in its use. In 1980 we were able to design and with NSERC and Sandy's help, build another, the innovative Alexander R. Cross telescope, with an alt-alt mounting, -- ideal for high-latitude sites such as our's. In the 1990's, in partnership with the Astrophysical Research Consortium in the U.S., provincial support, and more help from Sandy, we were able to install in it a new generation 1.8-m honeycomb mirror.
In this decade, thanks to a previous ASRIP research infrastructure grant, in collaboration with Alan Hildebrand and other colleagues at the U of C and three other Alberta universities, we are now modernizing and fully automating the telescopes and a Baker-Nunn satellite tracking camera to discover asteroid and variable stars and subsequently study them intensively.
Along the way we have developed innovative instruments and techniques and have used them to broaden our knowledge of the fundamental properties of the stars.
The funding of our Science and Awareness proposal is an opportunity to complete the
final phase of our planned development of the RAO. A new Visitors's Centre would
permit us to enhance our Open House program, now in its seventh year, in order to:
reach many more potential scientists and engineers;
aid in scholarly research through remote data gathering;
enhance distance-learning with webcasts of our popular-level talks, and remote astronomical imaging; to build displays that demonstrate how science works as well as what wonderful things we discover;
but, most importantly, to expand outreach to the community as a whole, which ultimately supports the work of all of us.
It is therefore gratifying to us on the RAO upgrade committee to receive this award, and on behalf of co-director Alan Clark and myself, deputy director for outreach, Rene Plume, our gifted and enlightened architect John Brown, our entire dedicated team in several departments and faculties, our associates in the Calgary Science Centre (especially Bill Peters & Alan Dyer) and in the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Calgary Centre), and, last but hardly least, our faithful corps of volunteers, I thank ASRA, the Minister of Innovation and Science, Victor Doerksen and his department, the government, and indeed all those responsible for this opportunity.