NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics
NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics (NRC Herzberg) is Canada's gateway to the universe. We operate Canada's national observatories and a national astronomy data centre, and develop advanced astronomical instruments in collaboration with industrial partners — bringing out-of-this-world technology back down to Earth.
What we offer
NRC Herzberg manages Canada's participation in major astronomical observatories worldwide and at home, thereby ensuring Canadian astronomers have full access to world-class facilities spanning the entire sky.
In astronomy, scientific progress is closely linked to technological innovation. That's why instrumentation experts at NRC Herzberg develop new, state-of-the-art devices that are critical for research at world-class observatories.
We are also a leading force in data management, archiving and distribution, thanks to the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre.
From providing support to users of our world-class observatories, to developing instrumentation for new research, and comprehensive data management, NRC Herzberg provides wide-ranging expertise and services to researchers and industry clients who work with us.
Working with us
NRC Herzberg is Canada's foremost authority on astronomy and astrophysics, maintaining Canada's largest and most powerful observatories, as well as representing Canada in some of the world's foremost astronomy initiatives. We welcome leading researchers from around the world to undertake research at our facilities, to better understand the universe.
Industrial collaborations and technology transfer are high priorities for us. We have helped several industry partners win major contracts and establish a competitive presence in the world market. Contact us to learn more about potential opportunities to work together.
Programs and collaboration opportunities
NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics operates three research programs: the Optical Astronomy Program, the Radio Astronomy Program and the Astronomy Technology Program.
- Optical Astronomy Program (OAP) supports Canada's national optical observatories, including the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO), the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) and the Gemini Observatory. It also operates the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC), providing access to high-capacity digital infrastructure that furthers astronomical research.
- Radio Astronomy Program (RAP) supports Canada's national radio astronomical observatories, including the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) and the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA).
- Astronomy Technology Program (ATP) supports Canada's goal to be a world-class provider of astronomical instrumentation. The program has built instruments for many of the world's major observatories. The majority of this work is carried out with a diverse group of national and international partners, both in industry and universities.
Technical and advisory services
NRC Herzberg has a long history of leading and participating in the development of cutting-edge astronomical instrumentation, including ground-based and space-based projects, for optical, near-infrared, millimetre and radio astronomy.
The Astronomy Technology Program is organized in multi-functional teams that offer a diverse set of technical, engineering and management capabilities, including:
- Adaptive Optics
- Electrical Engineering
- Instrumentation Science
- Manufacturing and Machining
- Mechanical Engineering
- Millimetre Technology
- Optical Engineering
- Project Management
- Radio Engineering
- Software and Controls
NRC Herzberg provides and supports other services related to astronomical phenomena, including:
The impact of Canada's astronomical research is rated among the world's highest, thanks in part to the world-class astronomical observatories that Canadian researchers can access, both at home and through partnerships in facilities around the world. NRC Herzberg supports activities at the following observatories.
- Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) located in Victoria, BC since 1916, the DAO includes two telescopes: the 1.8-m optical/near-infrared Plaskett Telescope, named after Observatory founder John Stanley Plaskett, and the 1.2-m telescope with its McKellar spectrograph.
- Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) located in Penticton, BC since 1960, the DRAO includes three telescopes: the 26-m John A. Galt Telescope, a single-dish antenna that can observe at 408 MHz to 6.6 GHz, the Synthesis Telescope, a suite of seven 9-m diameter antennas combined electronically into a single telescope that can observe at 408 MHz and 1420 MHz, and the Solar Flux Monitor that provides long-term 10.7 cm data of the Sun for "space weather" applications.
- Canadian Astronomical Data Centre (CADC) is a data archive, management and delivery organization that provides access to data from astronomical telescopes, as well as advanced data products from several astronomical surveys. Based in the DAO offices in Victoria, BC, the CADC also supports the Canadian Advanced Network for Astronomical Research (CANFAR), a distributed processing solution for large astronomical datasets.
- Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) is the world's largest observatory, ALMA consists of sixty-six 12-m or 7-m diameter antennas combined electronically into a single telescope that can observe from 86 GHz to 950 GHz. ALMA is located on the Llano de Chajnantor in northern Chile at 5000 metre altitude. Beginning scientific operations in 2012, Canada is a partner in ALMA with 19 other countries.
- Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) is a 3.6-m optical/infrared telescope located atop the summit of Mauna Kea: a 4200 metre altitude, dormant volcano located on the island of Hawai'i. Becoming operational in 1979, CFHT has consistently provided versatile and state-of-the-art optical astronomical observing to its users.
- Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8.1-m diameter optical/infrared telescopes located in Hawai'i and Chile, two of the best observing sites on the planet. With northern and southern locations, Gemini's telescopes can collectively access the entire sky. Gemini began scientific operations in 2000. Canada is a partner in Gemini with the US, Argentina, Australia and Brazil.
NRC Herzberg staff are involved in numerous projects to expand our knowledge of the universe. These projects include the study and development of new observing facilities for Canadian researchers. In addition, they include organized research initiatives that maximize the productivity of Canada's existing facilities for the benefit of the astronomical community.
- Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is a collaboration between Canada, the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, Japan, China, India and Yale University to build the world's largest and most advanced optical/infrared telescope. With a 30-m diameter mirror, TMT will have ten times the light-gathering ability of the largest optical telescopes currently in existence and produce images ten times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope. Canada is a partner in TMT through the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA). Canada will be responsible for two critical components: the innovated telescope enclosure and the adaptive optics system that will correct atmospheric distortions. Groundbreaking for TMT construction will take place in 2014.
- Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is an international effort to build the world's largest radio telescope. Using a network of thousands of antennas distributed up to 3000 kilometres apart, astronomers will use the SKA to: study galaxies, dark energy, black holes and the first stars; test Einstein's theory of gravity; and search for the molecules that are thought to be the building blocks of life. SKA will be built in the southern hemisphere, with antennae stretching from southern Africa to eastern Australia and New Zealand. Construction will begin in 2018, with full operations expected in 2025. NRC formally represents Canada in the SKA project, and is one of several Canadian institutions actively involved in SKA research and development.
- Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) is a novel radio telescope being built at DRAO in Penticton, BC, by the University of British Columbia, McGill University and the University of Toronto, with funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. Slated to begin operations in 2017, CHIME aims to map the large-scale distribution of neutral hydrogen gas at a time when the universe was 3-to-7 billion years old. By mapping about half the sky each day as the earth turns, CHIME will detect subtle, periodic fluctuations in the mass density of the universe that can be used to understand the nature of dark energy -- a mysterious form of energy that is responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe.
- Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey (PAndAS) is a large survey using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) designed to explore the structure and content of the nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and its close neighbour, the Triangulum Galaxy (M33). To date, more than 300 hours of CFHT time have been used to resolve millions of stars in these galaxies using CFHT's 340 megapixel imager, MegaCam.
- Next Generation Virgo Cluster Survey (NGVS) is a CFHT large program to image the Virgo cluster of galaxies — the dominant mass concentration in the local universe and the largest galaxy collection within 100 million light years — from its core to its virial radius. This 100 square degree region (equivalent in area to about 500 full moons) is being mapped in five optical filters using MegaCam. The NGVS team is comprised of about 45 scientists at research institutes across Canada and the world.
- Soul of Lupus with ALMA (SOLA) is a large program to carry out a comprehensive study of the Lupus Molecular Clouds and their star formation processes. This ambitious project will address several key questions about star formation, including the role played by angular momentum, magnetic fields, and jets or outflows. The consortium is composed of a large team of scientists from most of the countries involved in the ALMA project, including several NRC Herzberg staff members.
- Disk Emission via a Bias-free Reconnaissance in the Infrared/Submillimetre (DEBRIS) project is a key project with ESA's Herschel Space Observatory to observe 450 nearby stars and statistically understand debris disks, the remnants of extrasolar planetary systems. DEBRIS results include the detection of a broad range of morphologies in resolved disks, the discovery of a correlation between debris disks and low-mass planets, and the detection of a debris disk around Fomalhaut C, a recently discovered companion to the bright star Fomalhaut.
- JCMT Legacy Survey (JLS) is a suite of seven coordinated large-scale sub-surveys to use the new instruments of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawai'i to study stellar debris disks (Survey Of Nearby Stars), Galactic star-forming regions (Gould Belt Survey and JCMT Galactic Plane Survey) nearby galaxies (Nearby Galaxies Survey and SCUBA-2 All-Sky Survey), and galaxies in the early universe (Cosmology Legacy Survey). Observations are being obtained using SCUBA-2, the JCMT's submillimetre continuum imager, and HARP, its 345 GHz focal plane receiver array. The JLS is coordinated jointly by Canada, the UK and the Netherlands.
- Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) Campaign is a project to use GPI, the next generation adaptive optics instrument on Gemini, to image extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars. The GPI Exoplanet Survey team, including several NRC Herzberg staff members, was selected to carry out an 890-hour survey campaign from 2014 to 2016 to search for and characterize exoplanets around 600 stars. GPI will produce the first comprehensive survey of giant exoplanets at respective distances to where such planets exist in our own solar system.
- The Outer Solar System Origins Survey is an imaging survey using 400 hours of observing time with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope's mosaic imaging camera and will map out the structure of the region of the solar system beyond Neptune. This survey, a continuation of the Canada-France Ecliptic Plane Survey (CFEPS), will discover over 500 new Kuiper belt objects whose orbits and physical properties will provide the information needed to better understand how planets form.
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