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Researchers give Algonquin observatory a second life

The Globe & Mail has published an article about Ontario’s Algonquin Radio Observatory featuring our very own Professor Ben Quine who is also chief technical officer of Thoth Technology Inc.

In the wooded quiet of eastern Ontario, a long-neglected giant is tilting its massive ear toward the heavens once again. After years of inactivity and a crippling breakdown, the Algonquin Radio Observatory is at the forefront of a novel experiment that could transform the study of pulsars, collapsed stars that rotate at blinding speed and emit telltale radio pulses. The effort may also herald an unexpected second life for the national facility, with its prized 46-metre radio dish – by far the largest in Canada. But while it took a cast of hundreds to complete the observatory in 1965, its rebirth is the work of a small but dedicated band of private contractors.

“Today has clearly been the most successful run we have had,” researcher Ue-Li Pen said when astronomers and observatory staff gathered for dinner last month in the dormitory that once housed dozens of government scientists.

A researcher with the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, Dr. Pen has led the pulsar project, which is based on an idea of his for imaging the exotic stars with unprecedented precision. Because pulsars are the densest objects that can be observed in the universe, they are of interest to many researchers who are trying to understand the behaviour of matter at extreme pressures. Sitting across the vintage 1960s table, Brendan Quine, the chief technical officer with Thoth Technology Inc., welcomed the news of the successful run. With a background in satellite assembly and testing, Dr. Quine has been overseeing the restoration of the radio telescope since 2007. He credits Dr. Pen with blazing the trail that he hopes will inspire more astronomers to use the giant dish.

“Its potential for discovery is undiminished,” Dr. Quine said.

The rest of the article is on the Globe’s website.


Category: News