Checking out the galaxy just got a little bit easier in Saskatchewan.
The new observatory at the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park was unveiled Thursday, August 25. The structure hopes to build on the park's reputation as a Dark-Sky Preserve -- this is an area that is kept free of artificial light in order to promote astronomy.
The creators of the centre hope the new building will become one of North America's best astronomical viewing sites.
The project was the brainchild of the Friends of Cypress Hills organization. It's a group of dedicated volunteers with a genuine interest in the Cypress Hills region. They also raise money in their spare time -- as was the case for the new observatory.
Construction began in September of 2010 and was completed in July of this year. The cost of the facility was around $250,000.
The observatory seemed like a natural fit for the beautiful and tourist-friendly Cypress Hills setting.
“During the summer, I think there's something like 3 or 4,000 different people here on any given day,” says Gerald Gartner, CEO of The Friends of Cypress Hills Inc.
The opening of the facility gives many people the opportunity to learn about the wonders of the night sky and gets them pondering the key questions about space.
“To get the kids there and teach them about the dark skies and the celestial skies -- What is up there and why is it important?”
The massive complex includes a Dome Observatory with a 60 seat Yurt (tent with thicker walls) and outside telescope platforms. Two telescopes are on hand as well.
The project isn't entirely finished yet. There are plans underway to provide astronomy education for children and an Astronomer-in-Residence program.
“Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is one of the most wondrous places in Canada, and we are excited to be able to showcase it with this facility,” explains Gartner.
The observatory will also play an integral role in the annual Star Party that welcomes tourists from around the world.