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For the Community

​​Welcome to Grenfell Campus Observatory, home to Newfoundland's only professional telescope



The observatory was built in October of 2011 as part of the extension to the Arts & Science building and was officially opened in May of 2012.  From its opening until summer 2016, the observatory had more than 4200 visitors!

Inside the 6-metre aluminum dome of tne observatory are several telescopes with instruments to record and analyse the light received from distant astronomical objects. Sliding shutter doors on the dome open to reveal a "slit" in the dome roof to allow the main telescope to look at the sky, but protect it from wind and stray light. A controlling computer program automatically rotates the whole dome with the telescope to keep it looking out of the slit.

The main telescope is a reflecting design called Ritchey-Chretien Cassegrain which uses two mirrors. It was designed and manufactured by DFM Engineering Ltd. of Colorado. Its main mirror is 60 cm (24") in diameter, giving it almost 10,000 times the light-gathering ability of the human eye! The faint light from distant objects can be collected in this large "light-bucket", then focused through an eyepiece for direct viewing or into instruments for analysis.

The telescope is equatorially mounted with computer-controlled tracking motors to compensate for the motion of the Earth, allowing it to track objects in its field of view as they appear to move across the sky.

Two smaller special purpose telescopes are mounted "piggy-back" on the main telescope to take advantage of the main tracking drives.  A refractor telescope serves to look at a wider area of the sky than the main telescope - although with less light-gathering ability from its 10 cm lens. The small Coronado solar telescope has a specially designed filter to allow safe viewing of sunspots and beautiful prominences along the Sun's limb during the daytime.

M16_Eagle Nebula taken at GCOThe separate, heated Control Room allows researchers to point the telescope and control its instruments remotely.  The major astronomical instruments include a high-performance Apogee U6 fan-cooled CCD imager which is used to take timed exposures of astronomical objects, storing the light to build up a brighter image. A Shelyak LISA high luminosity spectrograph is used to record light that has been spread out into its many wavelengths.

We've also brought a little "outer space" to your space! The upper hallway study area of the Arts & Science extention has floor decals placed to represent the planets (plus Pluto) of our Solar System at their relative distances from the Sun. Be sure to walk through this Scale Model Solar System. Can you estimate how far away the next nearest star is at this scale?

The observatory is a natural tie-in to the B.Sc. degree program in physics at the Grenfell Campus. Students in the program have an opportunity to go beyond a basic physics degree and focus on astronomy as part of their studies. Grenfell currently offers courses in stellar astronomy (Physics 2151), the solar system (Earth Science 2150), galactic astronomy  (Physics 3160), and an observational astrophysics course (Physics 3180).

The observatory is located at latitude N 48 deg 56 min and longitude W 57 deg 56 min.


Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland
20 University Drive, Corner Brook, NL
A2H 5G4, Canada

Office: 4th Floor, Arts and Science Building
Phone: (709) 639-2397