An artist’s rendering of the new space observatory next to the Burnaby campus Diamond Alumni Centre. A private donor has chipped in $2 million for the multi-purpose facility and SFU needs to raise another $2 million to make it happen.

SFU approves astronomical observatory

August 5, 2010

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SFU has approved construction of a $4-million, 458-square-metre astronomical observatory and science outreach centre next to the Diamond Alumni Centre at the Burnaby campus.

And SFU’s dynamic duo in science outreach, physicist Howard Trottier and chemist Sophie Lavieri, are moving heaven and earth to raise the money needed to make it happen.

A private donor has provided $2 million to build the observatory. But the university still needs to raise another $2 million for the multi-purpose facility, which will rival Vancouver’s H.R. MacMillan Planetarium in terms of community outreach.

The facility will feature:
  • A motorized eight-metre-diameter dome housing a 0.7-metre diameter reflector telescope, capable of tracking distant galaxies billions of years old.
  • A telescope providing a digital feed to display screens in adjoining classrooms and off-site locations such as schools.
  • A viewing plaza dotted with sundials for people to set up their own telescopes next to the dome.
  • 140 square metres of reconfigurable floor space to accommodate 48 people in a lab setting and up to 100 people in a classroom format.
  • An introductory astronomy course and an advanced undergraduate astrophysics course offered by the SFU physics department.
“We desperately need this facility,” says Trottier, founder of SFU’s Starry Nights stargazing parties, which typically draw more than 100 kids and their parents.

“We’re turning schools and families away right now because we don’t have a permanent space, equipment and support staff.”

Adds Lavieri, founder of SFU’s equally popular Science in Action program: “Right now we’re financing science workshops that attract more than 5,000 students annually on a wing and a prayer.”

Trottier and Lavieri are conducting a full day of events Saturday, Sept. 18 at the Burnaby campus to help generate interest and funds for the planned observatory.

The event will feature a solar scavenger hunt, astronomy and Science in Action workshops and a Starry Night party.

More:; to view a YouTube video on the project, visit:


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