The members of the RASC Okanagan are committed to a "no-compromise" dark site, suitable for public access as well as providing totally dark skies ideal for research exploration. Such a location was found on the Big White road and application for a nominal lease on the Crown Land proceeds apace.
Click for larger versions of these maps.
Drawings courtesy of Heather Maxwell and Jim Failes.
The climate, limited light pollution and terrain of the Okanagan combine to provide an excellent location for an observatory. Terry Dickinson's article which says on page 13, Mar/Apr '06 SkyNews that "the south end of British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, has the driest, most astronomy-friendly climate in southern Canada." Further testimony about the Okanagan's suitability for astronomy by Alan Dyer on page 14. In the 1960’s the government of Canada QEII site survey chose the south Okanagan Mount Kobau as the location to build a new National Observatory based on the large proportion of clear nights, transparent skies, and fine seeing. Mount Kobau is the apex of astronomical locations in our area, but there are a multitude of other excellent locations that will offer great promise to our observatory planning, building and ultimate use.
Light pollution is a major factor in determining the location of an observatory and we are fortunate here in the Okanagan in that once outside of the valley bottom the effects of errant light drop off suddenly. In choosing our observatory location we had to balance the need for public access with a minimum of light exposure from the nearby urban areas and as can be seen by the light pollution maps below a fair compromise was reached. The maps graphically display the amount of light pollution with the brightest areas shown as red and diminishing levels transitioning to orange, yellow, green, blue and finally no colour added for areas that are completely dark for astronomical purposes.
Light Pollution Map General
Centered on the Okanagan valley and including southwest BC and northwest Washington state
Light Pollution Map Detail
A close up view of Kelowna, the Observatory location and Big White
The spectacular growth and development of the Okanagan region marks it as a leader in initiative and progress whose development of an astronomical observatory would be a crowning achievement. The sophisticated population of our community is curious and appreciative of the many aspects of astronomical inquiry that explore our universal context. A first class astronomical observatory would be a strong tourist attraction, bringing to our destination even more opportunities of enrichment. RASC Okanagan Centre members have a long track record of community outreach, which has been enthusiastically received. For five years RASC Okanagan Centre members have participated in sidewalk astronomy sessions where each night hundreds of people express their appreciation and wonder of the grand scale and illuminating concepts astronomy brings to the fore.
For many years members of the RASC Okanagan Centre have visited classrooms and offered night time observing sessions to a growing number of students that are encouraged and supported in exploring the possibilities and opportunities that present in astronomy and science in general. There is an excellent potential for possible partnership with UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College. RASC Okanagan Centre member Richard Christie is a professor at Okanagan College and offers his full-support to our project, and he has suggested that some of the trades classes at the college might be called on to help with design and construction. Our project has received the endorsement of UBC Associate Dean of Research and Strategic Planning, Melanie Jones.
The Okanagan has one of Canada’s premiere astronomical research facilities at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory and thus there are many professional astronomers in our region that could find benefit in, and would help support, a large aperture telescope. Our project has the endorsement of DRAO Research Associate Dr Tyler Foster.