It may not be large, but it is powerful. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Bellevue Observatory opened at the Morgan Arboretum in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue with the official First Light ceremony.
“The First Light ceremony is when the telescope’s mirrors are opened to receive light for the first time,” Andrew Fazekas said.
Fazekas is director of public communications for the Montreal Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and a former RASC Montreal president.
“Montreal has a new eye on the universe,” he said. That “eye” is supplied by a $10,000, research-quality robotic telescope, donated by former Montrealer Dr. David Levy – an acclaimed astronomer, comet hunter and RASC honorary president.
For the past 50 years, RASC had an observatory set up behind Molson Stadium on McGill University property.
“But the increased light pollution was not conducive to showing the public the night sky, so we chose the Morgan Arboretum,” Fazekas said. “It offers the darkest sky views on the island of Montreal.”
The modest-sized structure has a 10-foot dome and can welcome five or six adults at a time.
Plans are in the works to install a digital camera to project what the telescope is capturing onto a screen set up outside the structure so that a larger group of people can enjoy the telescope’s images at one time.
Fazekas has been working on the logistics and funding for the new observatory for 10 years. He’s been a super fan of star gazing for over 30 years.
“I bought my first telescope when I was 10 years old,” he said. “I was the youngest member of RASC when I joined at 13 years old. They didn’t have new members younger than 16 years old at the time, but they let me join because I was a such a keener.”
The Montreal Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada was founded in 1918 and is part of a 29-centre, cross-Canada RASC network which has 4,000 members.
Fazekas gives a free lecture called Spooky Skies of Halloween at the Morgan Arboretum Conservation Centre, followed by a telescope viewing, at 8 p.m. Saturday.
A calendar of free public events is listed on the Montreal Centre RASC website. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Visit www.rascmontreal.org.