- Press Release
- August 6, 2022
NRC Okanagan Observatory to Build “Canadarm of Astronomy”
Minister Rock Announces $20 M for Astronomy Research and Development in B.C.
Penticton, B.C. — The Honourable Allan Rock, Minister of Industry and Minister
responsible for the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), the Honourable
Herb Dhaliwal, Minister of Natural Resources Canada and Senator Ross
Fitzpatrick, announced today that the NRC Dominion Radio Astrophysical
Observatory (NRC-DRAO) near Penticton, British Columbia will be the site for the
design and construction of the "electronic brains" for the Expanded Very Large
Array (EVLA), a major US national radio astronomy project underway near Socorro,
New Mexico. Minister Rock made the announcement in conjunction with the official
opening of a $3 million laboratory building at NRC-DRAO.
The B.C.-based NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (NRC-HIA), which operates
the NRC-DRAO observatory near Penticton, has been specifically mandated to
design and build a next generation Wideband Interferometric Digital Architecture
(WIDAR) correlator for the EVLA. The WIDAR project, funded by NRC, will bring
new innovation investments of roughly $20 million to the Okanagan over the next
five years and will give Canada a role in a very high-profile international
Likened in international reviews to "the Canadarm of astronomy," the NRC WIDAR
system will be a massive ‘super-computing’ device capable of processing the
equivalent of 120 million telephone lines through one electronic number. The
NRC-DRAO expertise and system, capable of sifting through billions of numbers
per second, is considered crucial to the ambitious plans for the EVLA. The EVLA
will constitute a 10-fold increase in the technological capacity of the U.S.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (NRAO) Very Large Array (VLA). The VLA, a
gigantic array of large radio telescope antennae, is already considered one of
world’s best-known observatories because of its profile in books and films,
including Carl Sagan’s Contact.
"I am pleased that we can make these investments and congratulate the Herzberg
Institute and the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory for this recognition
of their world leading scientists and engineers," said Minister Rock. "This is
an example of the tremendous success that Canadian innovators continue to have
on the world stage."
The new $3 million NRC-DRAO laboratory building will provide space for
industrial partners as well as researchers working in radio astronomy, the
science of studying radio waves from the universe. Scientists use radio waves to
see aspects of the universe that would otherwise be invisible.
"These new facilities and the investment of $20 million demonstrates the
Government of Canada’s commitment to research and development throughout B.C.,"
said Minister Dhaliwal. "It is clearly a boost to innovation in the region."
The high-profile NRC EVLA-WIDAR project will be a significant boost to the NRC
regional innovation strategy in the Okanagan. NRC, Industry Canada, Vitesse
Reskilling Canada Inc., and Okanagan University College (OUC) earlier this year
signed a Memorandum of Understanding to broaden educational and research
opportunities in the region. NRC-DRAO will now collaborate with OUC to build new
strengths in signal-processing and radio frequency engineering. NRC is also
working with regional governments and Western Economic Diversification Canada
(WD) on a technology cluster strategy for the Okanagan.
"These new facilities and the EVLA-WIDAR project reinforces the Okanagan’s
potential as one of the country’s most dynamic, new regions for innovation,"
said Senator Fitzpatrick.
"The NRC-WIDAR project will magnify our ability to attract partners from across
Canada and internationally to our research observatories in B.C.," said Dr.
Arthur Carty, NRC President.
The commitment of new resources is being made by NRC in the context of funding
provided in the February 2003 Federal Budget and the government’s commitment to
Canada’s Long Range Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics. The EVLA WIDAR system
constitutes Canada’s main contribution to the recently signed Canada-US North
American Program in Radio Astronomy (NAPRA) agreement, which gives Canadians
full access to all U.S. national radio astronomy observatories.
Recognized globally for research and innovation, Canada’s National Research
Council (NRC) is a leader in the development of an innovative, knowledge-based
economy for Canada through science and technology.
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