Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, OK Falls, BC, Canada

NRC Offices with the 26 Meter Dish Telescope in the background.

NRC Offices at DRAO with the 26 Meter John. A. Galt Telescope in the background.

I tried to pay a birding visit last month to the DRAO facilities, at the White Lake Observatory near OK Falls, BC. , and while I was able to enjoy viewing many of the lovely mountain bluebirds on the observatory grounds, I was quickly swept up in the enthusiasm of Wendell Shuster, the weekend public tour guide & facilitator at Canada’s premiere astronomical radio research facility. There is much history here to celebrate where Canadian science has enjoyed many firsts in the field of radio astronomy – with more history about to be made.

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Wendell’s excitement and passion shine through as he deftly simplifies difficult science & astronomy concepts for the general public, while taking you around to see the various dish antennas & instrument rooms.

 

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Visitors from the Netherlands discussing climate change. People from all around the world regularly come to visit the facility.

 

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Peering through the facilities newly purchased hydrogen-alpha telescope. The solar disc and it’s sunspots were particularly active that day.

UPDATE:

Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) nearing completion.

The CHIME telescope is nearing completion, with the physical structure in place and the final sensor placement & data cables now being laid out. The short explanation of what CHIME is doing, is that it is mapping out up to 40% of the history of the universe since the “big bang”. The COBE satellite (Cosmic Background Explorer) only measured a fraction of th CMB (cosmic background radiation) confirming much about the early universe’s acceleration & expansion.

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Gary laying out kilometers worth of the data cables on the sensor array.

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The very important concern being explored by CHIME that is NOT expressly mentioned about this survey, is that: “ if the original observations about the accelerating expansion of the universe continue on in the way that they appear to be, there is a very real chance that we will go through another (previously observed!) phase change again, and life and the properties of matter as we know it could very well cease to exist.”

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“What will happen if this “phase change” takes place?,” I asked Gary. “We don’t really know either way, but it certainly gives great weight to the importance of this survey”. A rather frightening prospect, and we hope that the important work that CHIME is doing continues to get the funding it needs to help answer this question!

If you are visiting or live in the Okanagan area, it is well worth your time to pay them a visit! For more general information on CHIME & the DRAO facility, please visit their wikipedia page.

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