Dominion Astrophysical Observatory

Supplemental content

Contact us

The DAO offers capabilities in optical imaging, spectroscopy and spectropolarimetry. To learn more about our world-class astronomy facility, contact:

Dominion Astrophysical Observatory
Telephone: 250-363-0001

Targeted industries

Astronomy and astrophysics


Research facility highlights

The Observatory currently operates two research telescopes: the 1.8-metre Plaskett Telescope and the 1.2-metre telescope, which features the high resolution McKellar spectrograph.

The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) has been designated a national historic site because of its important role in establishing Canada’s international scientific reputation in astronomy. Over the decades, these telescopes have contributed significantly to our understanding of the rotation, size and mass of the Milky Way, and of the rarefied interstellar medium between the stars. Recent projects include orbital determination of comets and asteroids, spectroscopy of magnetic stars, and ongoing studies of distant quasars and galaxies.

What we offer

Since becoming operational in 1918, the Plaskett has accumulated nearly a century of upgrades that make it 10,000 times more sensitive than when it was first built. The 1.8-m Plaskett Telescope can perform optical imaging, as well as spectroscopy. Recent improvements include: a 2048 x 4096 pixel CCD camera at the Newtonian imaging focus; high-reflectivity coatings on the secondary and spectrograph mirrors; upgrades to the observing control system; the installation of much more sensitive acquisition and guide cameras at both telescope foci; and the development of a new polarimeter module for the Cassegrain spectrograph.

The 1.2-m telescope is equipped exclusively for optical spectroscopy. Built in 1961, it has been extensively modified and upgraded to internationally-competitive standards. Development efforts have allowed for up to 70% of the telescope’s observations to be fully automated. Based on NRC’s success with the 1.2-m telescope, automated capabilities are being added to the Plaskett Telescope operating system.

Our observatory’s main strengths include hosting long-term observing programs with long blocks of uninterrupted observing time and training next-generation astronomers for their scientific careers.

In addition to making the telescopes and their current instruments available to researchers, NRC provides online access to a growing collection of archival DAO telescope CCD and photographic spectra and images. These data are available through our Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC) via the DAO Science Archive and the DAO Spectroscopic Plate Archive.

Access and use

Both of DAO’s telescopes are available to qualified Canadian and non-Canadian researchers, with time allocated through a peer review process. They are scheduled quarterly and we continue to welcome long-term and thesis projects.


For general public inquiries, please contact:

Dominion Astrophysical Observatory
Telephone: 250-363-0001