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Centre of the Universe reopening timely in Saanich

Release of first images from James Webb Space Telescope has people excited
Tours of the dome hosting the Plaskett telescope are included in admission to the Centre of the Universe, which has reopened at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Central Saanich off West Saanich Road. (Black Press Media file photo)

Space fans and those curious about astronomy are celebrating the reopening of the Centre of the Universe visitor centre.

Operated by the Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, the centre has been closed since March 2020, leaving the region without an interpretive connection to the night skies for the layperson.

The timing of the reopening is perfect, with cosmic photos coming from the James Webb Space Telescope in recent days inspiring people worldwide to wonder further about the nature and history of the universe. A special sold-out Saturday Night Star Party continues the Friends’ 104-year tradition this weekend (July 16) with National Research Council astronomer Madeline Marshall leading discussions around early results from the Webb telescope.

Friends board member Lauri Roche said the findings of the Webb telescope have ignited people’s curiosity.

“Everybody has been really made aware of it, that there is some very different and new astronomy being done and that Canada is a part of it,” she said. Scientists with the Saanich-based Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre are also doing project management for the Webb project and are sharing what they’re learning, Roche added.

“We hope that by opening the centre here we’ll be able to showcase some of astronomy that’s being done in Canada, and just to show people that people that we’re on the world stage.”

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The star parties continue Saturdays through Sept. 3, with a special finale scheduled for Sept. 17. The events feature children’s programming with an engaging presentation, dome and planetarium tours and astronomy-related crafts. Each week sees a new speaker and theme with two talks along with two tours of the Dome. Tickets are by donation, with a list of events available at

Through the week the centre is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and offers self-guided gallery tours, a short film documenting the site’s history, and tours of the domed home of the Plaskett telescope. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and $25 for small groups of up to two adults and three students or seniors.

The stated mission of the volunteer-led Friends organization is to “inspire visitors of all ages by expanding their understanding of their place in the universe and making Canada’s historic Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and the Centre of the Universe sites of learning, creativity, and community for all.”


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