ARCT dome

50 Years of RAO People

Congrats to RAO on their 50th Anniversary! By Maureen Luchsinger

The Weaselhead/Glenmore Park Preservation Society are excited to work together with the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory as dark skies partners.  We together see the value in ensuring the corridor on the west side of the city connected to the Weaselhead maintains a dark sky for the nocturnal environment. These river corridors are critical areas for migration and important for ecological connectivity.

Findings from the Calgary Captured program shows that wildlife activity has increased at night and further stewardship of our nocturnal environment is critical to ecological connectivity. The proliferation of artificial light at night (ALAN) has a significant impact on the health and behaviour of wildlife.  ALAN causes disruptions to migration, foraging and impacts health. Migrating birds use the night sky for navigation, a map for their seasonal migration. When the stars are obscured, their map disappears, and changes in the timing or efficiency of migration can be detrimental for both their reproduction and survival.

Working together with the RAO through education and community outreach to mitigate this light pollution, we advocate lighting when you need it, where you need it and with lower intensity. Protecting and ensuring dark skies is an act of stewardship and caring for the natural and nocturnal world.

C14 Telescope

The Stuff of Life by Jennifer Howse

Friday night we started up the C14 telescope for the first time in two years. Rolling open the cube and aligning the C14 telescope was a familiar ritual for me and others who worked with outreach at the RAO. Over the past 15 years we have welcomed over 100,000 children to the observatory. Not all had a chance to look through telescope eyepiece, but all learned something about astronomy and their place in the universe. The past two years the observatory has been closed to the public. Our technician Jim has been hard at work upgrading the telescope technology and capabilities. Phil, RAO Director has been a guiding force as we, at times struggled to keep outreach and the public involved in our observatory.

After the two-year absence on March 1, the RAO will have a group of intrepid scouts on site. Learning about astronomy, viewing the night sky, and hearing me talk about the engineering marvels of the James Webb Telescope.

Personally, I have been so fortunate to have the opportunity over these past two years to partner with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Calgary Centre on presenting youth programs through the Calgary Public Library. We covered everything from the moon to the milky way and it was a chance to connect with young learners and answer their big astronomy questions. On the outreach front, we worked on our dark skies’ advocacy and astronomical Indigenous Ways of Knowing. Please check out our online citizen science project, along with our online books on Darks Skies and the Moon.

I am so grateful to welcome young learners to the observatory once again. Looking forward to all the ‘wow’ and ‘amazing’ comments when they see the Orion nebula through the telescope. Sharing the wonder of the natural world through a scientific lens is certainly the stuff of life.

ARCT control room

Dr. Phil Langill

Pushing the ARCT into the Future by Nico Koning

For a while now there has been a desire to “push the ARCT kicking and screaming into the 21st century” as Jim Pake would often say.  One of the major factors stopping us was the ARCT software.  Don’t get me wrong, the current software works very well.  The problem was that it is tied to the archaic computer (Pentium??) and operating system (Windows XP!) it runs on.  In order to proceed with ARCT hardware upgrades, we would need a modern computer.  This meant that we would first have to upgrade the software so it could run on said computer.

It turns out that upgrading was not an option, and a complete rewrite was needed.  It was a privilege of mine to be able to assist with this project.  We did most of the work over the past year which, due to the pandemic and the RAO closure, turned out to be a perfect time.  The software is mostly ready and is just undergoing final testing.  The computers can now finally be upgraded, which in turn means so can the hardware.  I feel a little bad the ARCT was kicking and screaming, but in the end, it was for its own good.