Secrets of BU: The Observatory

Okay, I know it’s not really a secret but I know not everyone knows about it and if you do know and haven’t gone, now’s your chance. It’s open to students and the public alike.

Through six years of education at BU I had never gone up to the roof of McMaster until this summer when they had an event to see Jupiter and Venus and some other stuff, including the big grain elevator in Kemnay, about 10 km to the west. They used one of the little telescopes for that, which was somewhat surreal. Unfortunately, it was cloudy that night and so we were only able to fiddle with the telescopes and enjoy the sunset. The volunteers on hand to organize things were very helpful and had time to teach about what the Observatory had to offer and teach the attendees some interesting things. For example, if you hold up your pinky to the horizon, that counts as one degree above the horizon. Three fingers is five degrees, a fist is ten, and the relax symbol with your thumb and pinky gets you to 25 degrees. Kind of like what the wayfarers do in Moana.

So that was cool.

The giant telescope that we had a look at is encased in a giant faraday cage, which means no texting from inside, but also if there is lightning, you’ll be safe by cowering inside. You also get to feel like a real astronomer.

The Brandon University Observatory sits on top of McMaster and from that vantage point you get a little less light pollution from the city and can see into the skies a lot more efficiently. The entire structure has been refurbished over the past two years and is ready to receive visitors on the third Friday of every month during the school year. If you haven’t had a chance to go, please, give it a try. It’s really awesome.

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