No lights shine at the Centre of the Universe today.
The staff who ran the interpretive centre at Little Saanich Mountain’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory cleaned out their desks yesterday, turned the light out, and vacated the building. So ends 12 years of educational programming about astronomy and Canada’s place in scientific research.
The National Research Council, which operates the centre, had the unenviable choice this year of cutting outreach or cutting even deeper into research.
It was one of many challenges the federal agency faces. The government recently adjusted the NRC’s research priorities to match private sector goals that focus on applied, or practical, research
Applied research is important. It can lead to patents, jobs, manufacturing, and all that good economic stuff.
However, the shift at the observatory is ironic.
In 1910, when astronomers suggested Canada’s government build a new, bigger, better national observatory, they specified it be purpose-built for studying astrophysics.
Not astronomy. Astrophysics….