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Observatory up for award

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
The observatory at the airport in Sechelt has been nominated for a WoodWORKS! B.C. award for its innovative design that allows the roof to roll off to expose a high-powered telescope.

The new observatory at Sechelt’s airport has been nominated for a Wood WORKS! BC award for its innovative design that allows the roof to literally slide off to expose a high-powered telescope aimed at the stars. 

The observatory has been nominated in the small institutional wood design category, which recognizes “the benefits of wood in institutional applications while showcasing the special qualities of wood such as strength, durability, beauty, versatility, benefits to occupants and cost-effectiveness.”

The observatory belongs to the Sunshine Coast Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Society president Charles Ennis said his group is “pretty pleased with the nomination, since we’re up against some impressive entries entered by accomplished engineers and architects.”

He will travel to the 2016 Wood Design Awards put on by Wood WORKS! BC in Vancouver on Feb. 29 to see if the society can take home the win.

The idea for the observatory was created by lead designer (and past society president) Adrian Payne, who also designs satellites for MacDonald Dettwiler Corp. in Richmond.

Payne came up with the design when the society was looking for a way to house its high-powered telescope.

“We wanted a simple yet sturdy structure to house our 14-inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope, and our roll-off roof observatory certainly fills the bill,” Ennis said.

Construction on the observatory started in 2013 with help from local contractors and suppliers.

“The concrete for the pillars for the frame and the telescope mount was donated by Swanson Ready Mix Concrete, much of the machine work was donated by Choquer and Sons Machine Works, and much of the custom-milled wood for the construction came from BMHC Milling,” Ennis said.

“Lothar Hirschfelder donated his time to weld the aluminium frame for the solar panels. Assistance with roofing was provided by Pete Weiler of Space Construction, and construction assistance was provided by Terry Malmloff of Sunshine Coast Home Check and Colin Bradley of West Can Carpentry. All of the rest of the work was done by [society] members.”

The observatory officially opened last year on June 27.

Ennis is now hopeful the society will be able to hang an award on the wall of the new observatory, to mark how special it is and honour all the hard work that went into accomplishing it.