By Don Douloff, July 31, 2008
Nestled on an unspoiled 100-acre site on Lake Travers, deep in Algonquin Park, in Northern Ontario, is the Algonquin Radio Observatory (ARO).
Operated by Thoth Technology Inc., an Ontario-based company specializing in space systems, the observatory boasts state-of-the-art scientific equipment that will entrance amateur astronomers and anyone with a passing interest in space. The ARO boasts its own atomic clock and a radio telescope, whose 46 m. (150 ft.) antennae is the largest in Canada and one of the largest in the world. Guides provide a one-hour introductory tour of the Observatory building and instrumentation (a behind-the-scenes tour and guide to the facility’s operation is also available). For an added educational component, the Observatory hosts speakers on subjects such as radio astronomy and space science.
ARO is a hive of fascinating scientific activity. For instance, it can be used for interplanetary communications and is the ground station for Northern Light, a Canadian mission to send one or more landers to the surface of Mars, currently under development by Thoth Technology and York University, for launch this decade.
On the accommodations side, the ARO’s Observatory House, furnished in its original 1960s decor, can host groups of up to 20 in its 10 guestrooms, each of which features a queen bed or twin beds.
“ARO is located in a radio-quiet zone, so cell phones and BlackBerrys do not work on-site, ensuring focused group activities,” says Caroline Roberts, president and CEO of Thoth Technology Inc. “But we do have wireless Internet and television is available in the library.”
Moreover, the ARO offers 10-per-cent discounts on accommodation for groups of 10 to 15 and discounts of 15 per cent for groups of 16 to 20. Besides the one-hour ARO tour, the daily rate includes use of canoes and a kayak on Lake Travers and surrounding rivers. Beyond that, guests can birdwatch (more than 270 species have been recorded locally); hike the woods or explore the private beach; fish; photograph wildlife; explore other areas of immense Algonquin Park.
Or visitors can simply gaze at the starry heavens, using the Observatory’s eight-inch Newtonian telescope. In this wilderness setting, with virtually no light pollution to spoil the fun, the views should be breathtaking.
Northern Light mission website: www.marsrocks.ca