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Fall Public Observing at Grenfell

1 October, 2015

The 2015 Fall Public Observing Schedule has been posted. All tours start in AS 2026, on the ground floor of the Arts & Science extension, and consist of a short talk and (if clear) a chance to look through our 0.61 m telescope. If it is overcast, a longer talk will precede a tour of the dome and display area. No reservations are required. All tours begin at 8 PM. Please check the Public Tours page for times and dates.


PlutoPalooza_white_500.png22 July, 2015

The Grenfell Campus Observatory will hold a “Pluto-Palooza!” on Saturday, July 25th to celebrate the arrival of the New Horizons spacecraft at the last of the “classic" planets – Pluto.  This special night will focus on Pluto - its discovery, why it has been de-classified to a “dwarf planet”, and how it will help us to better understand the formation of the solar system.  We'll show recent images from the spacecraft, and images taken by our own 0.61 m Pluto_14July2015_NASA_NewHorizonstelescope. The talk begins at 8:00 PM in AS 2026.

For the latest distance and images from New Horizons, check the mission website.

Also at the Palooza will be the launch of an observing project for Grades 4 to 9 called "Passport to the Planets".  Young people will be encouraged to go outside and look for the planets in the morning or evening sky, in addition to coming to the Observatory Public Nights. They can pick up a Passport and "visit each of the planets!  When the Passport is completed, their name will be entered for an astronomical prize!

More information will be given after the Pluto talk and a webpage is under construction.


1 April, 2015

Finally the snow has gone from around the dome and public observing nights will resume at the observatory!  The 2015 Spring Public Observing Schedule has been posted. All tours start in AS 2026, on the ground floor of the Arts & Science extension, and consist of a short talk and (if clear) a chance to look through our 0.61 m telescope.  If it is overcast, a longer talk will precede a tour of the dome and display area.

No reservations are required. Note that not all tours begin at the same time. Please check the Public Tours page for times and dates. 

Visiting Astronomer to Give Talk at Grenfell

12 February, 2014

American Astronomical Society Shapley Speaker Tour Presents:

X-ray Binaries: Elementary, Enigmatic, Explosive, and Extreme

Dr. Saeqa Vrtilek of the Harvard - Smithsoniann Center for Astrophysics will present a popular-level talk on the relatively new field of X-ray astronomy and some of the extraordinaryy objects in the X-ray sky.  Many people have heard of black holes and neutron stars as theoretical objects; this talk will be about how the discovery of bright, variable x-ray sources has led to their identification as binary star systems containing one of these objects.  More information...

Monday, March 3rd @ 7 PM in LC 301          Admission is free.

Science Inspires Art at the Observatory

15 October, 2013

Three of Grenfell's international students recentlyscope_button_js.png spent an afternoon in the observatory dome with sketch books and cameras, creating some amazing views OF the telescope, rather than THROUGH it!  

Megan Trotman of Barbados, Aaron Useche of Venezula, and Jennifer Sanford from Montana, USA are all science students with artistic talents, too.  The unusual request came as a result of their visit during the September Open House, when they were impressed with the appearance of the telescope and asked for an opportunity to experiment with art inside the dome.

Image at right by Jen Sanford, panarama below by Aaron Usech

Successful September Open House!

22 September, 2013

The fall Open House at the Grenfell Observatory was a great success, despite the inclimate weather.  The afternoon session included a talk by Dr. Doug Forbes about the telescope, its teaching and outreach role on campus.  Visitors to the 3rd floor hallway of the Arts & Science extension could also view astronomical displays and several small telescopes were set up.


The evening session of the talk featured Dr. Forbes speaking about recent advances in astronomy and some of the research projects that are underway.  The weather cooperatedy only briefly, as some of the nighttime visitors were able to glimpse the Moon. 

night_tour_JS_1108_300.jpg  night_tube_JS_1116_300.jpg
In all, about 120 attended the two sessions of the Open House, an event we hope will be repeated annually.

Summer Meteor Showers

Meteor shower radiant

23 July, 2013

Warm summer nights are great for enjoying the sky, and the best show is a meteor shower! A meteor, or shooting star as we sometimes call it, is a piece of asteroid or comet which enters the Earth's atmosphere. The friction of its path through the air heats it up, making it glow and (usually) disintegrating it before it can reach the ground.

You can see meteors any time of year, but rates pick up significantly from late July through August. The major showers are the Perseid meteor shower around August 12th and the Delta Aquariids, from July 27-31.

For more information about meteor showers and tips on how and where to observe them, see Sky & Telescope's "Catch a Falling Star" blog.

Citizen Science Studies Galaxies

Zooniverse Online

19 July, 2013

Interested in making a Real Contribution to Astronomy Research?


is home to the internet's largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects. You can take part online, at your own pace, in one or more of their projects. Classify galaxies, study star formation, explore the surfaces of the Moon and Mars!  Their latest project is called Galaxy Zoo Quench.

More than 800,000 citizen scientists world-wide have signed up!  What about YOU?

Wave and Smile at SATURN on JULY 19th

Wave at Saturn!

9 July, 2013

Cassini takes a new portrait of Earth on July 19, 2013

The world will be watching on July 19, 2013, as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft snaps Earth's image from the far side of Saturn.  With the brilliant light of the Sun blocked by Saturn itself, the ringed planet will loom large in the foreground with Earth appearing as a very distant "Pale Blue Dot."  It's been done before during Cassini's nine years in orbit around the ringed planet but this time is very special.  For the first time, Earthlings will know ahead of time that their portrait will be taken by a camera a billion miles away. So look up at Saturn and SMILE!

For a closer look at the incredible beauty of Saturn's rings with your own eyes, come to the Public Observing Night on Saturday, July 20th. The tour starts at 9:30 PM in ASE 2026 and will have a special emphasis on Saturn.


6 June, 2013

Check out the newly updated Image Gallery page! It now contains a slide show of some of our best colour-processed images, along with some explanations and descriptions of what they are.


3 May, 2013

 The Summer Public Observing schedule has been posted. No reservations are required; all tours start in ASE 2026, the new lecture theatre on the ground floor of the new Arts & Science Extension.

Please check the Public Tours page for times and dates. 


17 March, 2013 


How many stars can you see from your backyard at night?  Have you ever seen the Milky Way?  For many people living in a city or even a large town, the night sky is a yellow haze, and a glimpse of the Milky Way is a thing of the past. 

Light pollution, in the form of unnecessary lighting, is not only stealing our appreciation of the night sky's wonders, but is disrupting wildlife and affecting our health. This insightful 6.5 minute video produced by Loch Ness Productions and the International Dark-Sky Association tells the story of light pollution and how we can work together to mitigate it.  We can save money and energy by limiting our outdoor lighting AND regain a starry sky to fill our children with wonder.  For more information about how you can help, see the IDA website.

The Latest on the Russian Meteor

23 February, 2013


The fireball that exploded over Russia February 15th left a wake of destruction but thankfully no lost lives. Here's the latest from NASA Science News.


Current estimates give its diameter as it entered the atmosphere, at about 17 metres and its mass at 10,000 tonnes.  It was the most powerful meteor strike since 1908, when a meteor exploded over Tunguska, Russia.


The event was not related to the close approach of the 45 metre asteroid 2012 DA14 later that day.


4 February, 2013


Public Observing Nights will resume Saturday, 2 March. Reservations are necessary and may be made through Grenfell's Community Education Office. Please check the Public Tours page for times and dates.

Our First Anniversary!

29 October, 2012


One year ago, the 0.60m telescope at the GCO saw "first light".


It's been a busy year. In that time we've gone from basic - for our first 5 months, we didn't even have a proper railing around the observing floor - to operational, with equipped control room and a public display area. Over 730 people have now had a tour of the observatory, through Saturday public nights, school daytime tours (half of the visitors), or other groups.


The arrival of our Apogee U6 CCD camera in late spring meant that we could also begin to do some "science". Throughout the summer months and into early fall, we tested the capabilities of the camera and the telescope.

Whew! That was close!   Near-Earth Asteroid 2012 QJ42

Near-Earth asteroid 2012 QJ4213 September, 2012


On the night of 12/13 September, GCO observers recorded the closest approach of Near-Earth asteroid 2012 QJ42.  The image at right is one of several hundred 30 second exposures taken over about an hour.  The white streak near the centre of the image is the distance the asteroid moved in those 30 s!  This is practically zooming.


While the 250 m chunk of rock came no closer than seven times the Earth-Moon distance (just less than 3 million km), far enough away to be completely harmless, that's close in astronomical terms.  Thus it has been classified as PHA (a potentially hazardous asteroid) because there's a small chance that it will hit Earth some time in the distant future.  The asteroid was discovered on August 26th of this year by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, a project dedicated to searching for near-Earth objects.


4 September, 2012


Public Observing Nights will resume Saturday, 15 September with two sessions per night. Reservations for may be made through Grenfell's Community Education Office. Please check the Public Tours page for further details. 

LIGHT POLLUTION - Bad for the Health, too?

23 July, 2012


Astronomers have fought against unnecessary nighttime illumination for years.  Unshielded streetlights and parking lot lighting which shines UP, instead of down, can completely wash out the city-dweller's view of the stars. (How?)  More...


But now the American Medical Association has recently released a report entitled "Light Pollution: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting”, which suggests that there may be a number of harmful affects on our health, as well.  It’s a review of some of the available research literature on nighttime lighting’s affect on people - from the intense glare of halogen headlights to extended shiftwork and how it can change our body's circadian rhythm.


3 April, 2012


This Winter Term saw our first student poster session, as the Physics 2151 class were able to show off (below left) the images they took with a Canon EOS camera attached to the telescope. Despite the terrible weather this term limiting the observing sessions, the enthusiastic students were able to be the first class to use the telescope!

 Student poster session    M82 - exploding galaxy

Three student images: M82 (above right) a galaxy with unusually high areas of star formation; the Orion Nebula (below left) a site of star formation in our own galaxy; M51 (below right), a nearby face-on spiral galaxy.

Orion Nebula

M51 - spiral galaxy


This Fall, students in EaSc 2150: The Solar System will also have opportunities to use the telescope, both for observing and for course projects.


Saturday 29 October 2011

 Happy astronomers  

 "First light" through the new Grenfell Observatory 0.61 m telescope! Starlight hit the mirror for the first time. Although partly cloudy, we were able to use "holes" in the clouds for the initial testing.

Ian Huss (left) and Richard Neel (off camera) of DFM Engineering completed the check of the telescope's polar alignment - it's OK! - and initial focusing. On hand to assist was Grenfell's thrilled astronomers Doug Forbes (centre) and Darlene English (right) .


June, 2010


DFM staffDoug Forbes from the Grenfell Physics department was invited to tour the DFM Engineering facilities just outside of Denver, Colorado and see “some of the bits” of our telescope which had been manufactured already. Dr. Frank Melsheimer and his staff (at right) were extremely welcoming – in fact, the tour lasted all day and included lunch!


schematic of DFM telescopeDFM Engineering occupies half a dozen work bays of a small industrial mall in Longmont, a suburb to the north of Denver. Frank Melsheimer and his wife Kate, the general manager, have a small company of 16 highly skilled technicians, machinists, fabricators, and computer specialists, who have gained a world-wide reputation for excellence as a result of building more than 85 mid-sized (i.e. 0.4 – 2.4 m) research-grade telescopes and retro-fitting 27 older instruments.


The optical and electro-mechanical drive systems are of their own design and they also write the software which controls the telescope and its dome. Some of their clients have included the Adler Planetarium in Chicago (0.5 m), University of Calgary (major upgrade), University of Michigan (2.4 m), U.S. Naval Observatory (1.3 m), and most recently the University of Victoria (0.8 m).


It was quite exciting to see some of the basic components of our telescope mount sitting on shelves waiting to be assembled and to put faces to the people who will be developing our telescope.


The diagram at left shows some of the major components of a classical Cassegrain reflecting telescope. Light enters the telescope tube from the top and is reflected off the mirror at the bottom of the tube, then back up the tube to a secondary mirror, then back down through a hole in the primary mirror to a scientific instrument or an eyepiece.




telescope pedestal and fork



At left is the pedestal and fork waiting for their coat of yellow paint, as seen in the diagram above. They are the main components of the telescope mount.

 mirror cell

The polished mirror is held in place within the mirror cell at the bottom of the telescope tube.

polar axisThe whole telescope revolves around the polar axis, which is aligned to celestial North.

RA drive disc

One of the drive gears which allows the telescope to follow the stars as the Earth rotates.


ARE - articulated relay eyepieceMost interesting was a demonstration of the articulated relay eyepiece (ARE) by Frank (who has the telescope end in the image at right) and Kate (holding the eyepiece end). This amazing design, for which Frank won an award, uses a series of relay lenses and folding mirrors to allow the eyepiece to swivel to any orientation and height. Our telescope will be equipped with one of these to accommodate disabled observers and children during public tour nights.




We were also able to see the equipment which Frank has designed and built to grind and polish 1 to 1.8 m mirrors: cranes, mirror cradles, and unique polishing engines and tools. mirror polishing apparatusFrank and optical technician, Renee, review each polishing step and test for accuracy using a computer-controlled laser. At the time, they were polishing and testing one of two partially-completed 1.3 m mirrors (image at right) for a pair of telescopes ordered by an Indian research institute. Our mirror, with a diameter of 0.6 m, is too small to be ground at DFM and will be supplied by Star Instruments, Inc. in Georgia, USA.

Mark Kelley, the DFM software specialist, demonstrated the intuitive and versatile interface to the telescope and dome. The computer-controlled movement of the telescope will point to within 10 to 20 arc seconds; the dome is rotated automatically to allow the open slit to follow the sky's movement as the Earth rotates.


Objects for public observing nights can be chosen from standard lists and the telescope can move from one to the next at the touch of a button. Research observing time can be maximized by pre-programming object fields and instrument exposure times; then the telescope can move automatically through the list. We were also able to actually move one of the 0.4 m telescopes they have for systems testing. The set and slew motors were very smooth, with no backlash!


Another highlight of the tour was to see the newly completed 0.8 m telescope for the University of Victoria. DFM had just completed testing and it was awaiting disassembly for shipping to our colleagues there. Our telescope has a smaller mirror and a closed tube assembly, but uses the same size mount.


street address:

Grenfell Campus
Memorial University

20 University Drive
Corner Brook, NL
A2H 5G4

mailing address:

Grenfell Campus
Memorial University

PO Box 2000
Corner Brook, NL
A2H 6P9

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