TAWBAS star party

Editor’s Report: New Canadian Observatory’s First Colour Photo

The Trottier Observatory is off to a fine start.


If you read the article on new public observatories in British Columbia in the July/August SkyNews, you will recall that the just opened Trottier Observatory on the Burnaby Campus of Simon Fraser University features an impressive PlaneWave CDK700 28-inch Dall-Kirkham reflector in a handsome dome. Like most university telescopes situated on campus, the Trottier Observatory is a teaching telescope that is open to the public on specified dates for celestial events such as solar and lunar eclipses and on some clear evenings for public viewing of planets, nebulas and galaxies.

But what is more unusual about this university observatory is that the telescope is also designed to take colour images of the wonders of the universe, as demonstrated here with this exceptional composite image of the giant spiral galaxy M101 (below). Images like this require an expert astrophotographer at the controls.


This fine colour portrait of the sprawling 170,000-light year-wide galaxy M101 in the constellation Ursa Major was taken using the new 28-inch telescope at the Burnaby Campus of Simon Fraser University. photo by Howard Trottier, Simon Fraser University

Step forward Howard Trottier, a physics professor on the university staff who took the CCD images and processed them. He is promising more of the same as time and weather conditions permit. But with this image alone, the bar is already set high.

As explained in the July/August article, Howard is the brother of Lorne Trottier, who, along with his wife and daughters, is a Montreal-based philanthropist who has often supported scientific projects, particularly ones with a strong public-outreach component like this one.

Many university observatories offer peeks through teaching telescopes, but very few take public outreach a step further by sharing the majesty of the universe that only modern colour imaging offers to a wider audience. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has taken the lead in this regard with a public-outreach department devoted to the preparation and dissemination of hundreds of images over the past quarter-century—many of them published prominently in this magazine.

The intrinsic beauty and majesty of the universe are, I would argue, what initially ignites so many of us — especially young people — with a fascination for astronomy.

Editor Terence Dickinson invites your comments and astronomy-related observations and photos, which can be directed to him at [email protected].

Check out the November/December issue of SkyNews (on newsstands now) for an expanded version of Terence Dickinson’s Editor’s Report.

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