Saanich observatory supporters hope for May reopening

Public component at Saanich astronomy centre could be open in a month

Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich are confident the national historic site will reopen to the public this spring, though slightly later than originally anticipated.

The Centre of the Universe, which houses interactive educational displays and historic astronomy artifacts, was closed to the public last August due to federal funding cuts. The observatory’s Plaskett telescope was also closed to public tours.

Thousands petitioned the closure of the education centre, included longtime supporter Don Moffatt. After the doors closed, three different groups were formed to look at short- and long-term plans to restore astronomy education at the site; Moffatt is a member of all three.

“The short-term working group is looking at restoring as many services as possible with the visitors centre this year,” he says.

The long-term working group is working to revitalize the centre and make it viable into the future. The Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory group, close to becoming official, aims to be the non-profit organization that deals directly with the federal government.

While an April reopening was planned, the groups have since pushed that back to May, to hopefully coincide with Astronomy Week (May 4-10).

“Also that’s the anniversary of the observatory,” Moffatt said. “It’s still being negotiated, but it’s looking good (for a limited opening in May).”

Currently being planned is an open house in May – the details of which are not yet known – to be sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

RASC also aims to host children’s camps in the summer.