The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory celebrates 100 years of astronomical discovery


The National Research Council’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory celebrates a hundred years of great discoveries in astronomy. The building shown here under a beautiful night sky is home to the Plaskett telescope which has been in operation at the site since 1918. (National Research Council Canada)

It has been a century of discovery at Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Victoria since the first light fell onto photographic plates at the Plaskett Telescope on May 6, 1918 – beginning research at the Observatory and propelling Canada onto the world stage of astrophysics. Since becoming operational in 1918, the Plaskett has accumulated nearly a century of upgrades that make it 10,000 times more sensitive than when it was first built.


The Plaskett Telescope was Canada’s first major “big science” project to be funded publicly. For more than three decades, as one of the three largest telescopes in the world, it enabled major astronomy discoveries.

The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory was instrumental in launching the field of astrophysics in Canada. The Plaskett telescope design was so successful that it was copied in seven telescopes around the world.

The Observatory has made many contributions to international astronomy, including John Stanley Plaskett’s definitive work on the structure of the Milky Way, followed by subsequent research into binary stars, the study of stellar X-ray sources, stellar-mass black holes, and pioneering advanced optical instrumentation for clearer pictures of our universe.


A hundred years of discoveries at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (National Research Council Canada)

As part of the celebration, a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque from Parks Canada was unveiled, recognizing the Observatory as a national historic site.

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