Also known as the “Centre of the Universe”, the observatory was closed to the public in 2013 due to financial constraints.**
The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, located on Observatory Hill, in Saanich, British Columbia, was completed in 1918 by the Canadian government. The Dominion Architect responsible for the building was Edgar Lewis Horwood. The main instrument is the 72 inch (1.83 meter) aperture Plaskett telescope, proposed and designed by John S. Plaskett in 1910 with the support of the International Union for Cooperation in Solar Research. It was planned to be the largest telescope in the world but delays meant it was completed and saw “first light” on May 6, 1918, 6 months after the Hooker 100-inch telescope.
The observatory has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada as it is a world-renowned facility where many discoveries about the nature of the Milky Way were made, and it was one of the world’s main astrophysical research centres until the 1960s.
**Community-based groups are now working with NRC to explore options for future operations and two short-term solutions are now in place: Science Venture, the University of Victoria’s science outreach program, is running astronomy and space-themed camps for children and youth in grades three to eight this summer. NRC is providing rent-free use of the Centre of the Universe building to facilitate this pilot project; the second solution is from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.