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UC being eyed up for National Observatory role

9 March 2005

UC being eyed up for National Observatory role

The University of Canterbury should become the new home of New Zealand’s National Observatory, according to a report released by the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology.

The report says Canterbury University’s Mt John Observatory, at Lake Tekapo, already performs most of the roles of a National Observatory and is considered to be the major New Zealand player on the international astronomical scene. The report released by MRST says moving the National Observatory is necessary as the role and functions of the Carter Observatory have changed significantly since its establishment as the National Observatory in 1977.

It says the Carter Observatory has shifted away from active research to a more educational and visitor-centred experience.

A new National Observatory could be based at the Canterbury University campus, utilising the University’s existing astronomical and technical resources.

The report says the new arrangement would require modest funding and would be of mutual benefit to the scientific community and the University, which has demonstrated a long-term commitment to astronomy.

College of Science Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Shaw, is excited by the report’s recommendations.

“This recognizes our significant expertise in astronomy. Hosting the country’s National Observatory is an honour that would give us the spotlight in which to grow our astronomy research and develop means to bring the public into this fascinating world.”

Late last year a new multi-million dollar telescope facility was opened at the Mt John Observatory for use in the Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) Project - an international collaboration which aims to determine the origin of Dark Matter, one of astronomy's greatest puzzles.


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