New telescope makes Halifax a dominant force for astronomy

November 10, 2014

Saint Mary's University is celebrating the installation of a brand new telescope on campus that's poised to make Halifax, Nova Scotia, the center of astronomy in all of Atlantic Canada, according to CBC News. Taking up residence in the Burke-Gaffney Observatory, the Planewave 0.6-metre CDK24 telescope brings a whole new level of sophistication and quality to the university's stargazing capabilities, as well as gaining the honour of being the second-largest telescope in all of Canada's universities.

The apparatus is already generating a lot of buzz throughout the astronomy industry in Nova Scotia, but other advanced features position the telescope as a useful tool people from all over the world can enjoy.

The potential of the Planewave

The Planewave is replacing a 40-year old telescope, giving astronomers, students and space enthusiasts the ability to see objects hurling through the cosmos in a whole new caliber. Aside from its increases in size and image quality, there's one characteristic in particular that's getting people excited for the new telescope.

The Planewave will be the first such instrument in the world with the capability to communicate with people using social media, reported Global News. Using social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, people can send the telescope requests for pictures of certain areas and objects in the night sky.

The device will then turn to the desired location and take a picture, promptly replying to whoever made the inquiry.

"A member of the public anywhere in the world could send the observatory a tweet and say 'Take a picture of such and such a galaxy,'" Dave Lane, the observatory's director, told the source.

This kind of engagement is hoped to foster more interest in astronomy, getting people curious about what lies among the stars. With the ability to see light across the universe that's 2.5 billion light years away, users can essentially create their own unique images in resolutions never available to them before. People no longer will have to rely on stock images found online to see a certain celestial body.

Inspiring the youth of the country

The real goal of the Planewave telescope is to stir the imagination of Canada's youth and beyond. The instrument was purchased using funds donated by Dr. Robert Medjuck, whom the telescope is named after, and his wife, added CBC News.

While Medjuck himself isn't a connoisseur of astronomy, he understands the need for students to have the necessary equipment to learn and pursue their interests.

"Saint Mary's students' curiosity about the universe is inspiring and infectious. One look through the new telescope and one appreciates the importance of scientific discovery — and astronomy in particular," Medjuck said in a news release.

The new telescope will serve as a tool to teach interested students, and through guided tours and scheduled viewing nights, school-aged children and members of the local community have a chance to experience its power as well.

The Planewave reinforces the belief that Halifax and Atlantic Canada are ideal destinations for anyone with a fascination for astronomy. When the telescope's ability to connect with people all over the world through social media comes online and advances further, enthusiasts will be able to wield the new device no matter where they are.

This new aspect of interacting with scientific equipment may be all that's needed to inspire young minds into the field. As the only instrument on the planet with these connected qualities, the Planewave certainly sets Halifax apart from other astronomical institutions around the globe.

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