Today marks the anniversary of one of the biggest events in local astronomy history, and probably in the history of science in Canada. It was exactly one century ago today that the Plaskett telescope at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Little Saanich Mountain in my hometown of Victoria,British Columbia, first collected light from the stars and became the second largest telescope in the world.

For those who haven't had a chance to see the telescope, it is an amazing piece of equipment - and especially considering the era in which it was built. The main mirror measures 72" across, and the entire telescope took a full eight years from proposal to implementation to construct. At the time that John Plaskett first proposed it, it was to be the largest telescope ever built. Unfortunately the first time the mirror was delivered it had developed a large scratch which rendered it useless as a high precision instrument. The second attempt also resulted in a flawed mirror, due to errors in the grinding process. By the time the mirror was delivered for the third time, the delays had allowed the Mount Wilson observatory to design and construct a larger 100" telescope, depriving the Plaskett of its spot in history.

However it has still been a great tool for astronomers over the past century, as well as being a great public outreach to promote science and astronomy to the public. I remember as a child visiting the Center of the Universe, which was their museum for the public (though it was not given a name until I was already a graduate student), as well as explaining to a number of scientifically literate visitors later in life how the city of Victoria was claiming to be the center of the Universe. (And those of you who understand modern cosmology will know why that statement is both true and false at the same time)

Since the Plaskett telescope was first built, the observatory has added a second, smaller telescope as well as a number of spectrographs and imaging devices to improve their ability to do research. In the 1990s it also become the center for the NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, which collaborates and contributes to major observatories across Canada and internationally. In 2008 the observatory was also designated as a National Historic Site for its major contributions to astronomy and astrophysics.

It is quite a fun place to visit, and well worth a trip sometime. I would encourage those of you who live in Victoria or are visiting the city to take the opportunity to see this amazing piece of scientific history. It is an underappreciated gem of Canadian history and contribution to the world of science, and should be celebrated for all that it has achieved in its first century!