At the Dominion Observatory Machine Shop

Dominion Observatory 1

The FIX IT team visited the Machine Shop at the Dominion Observatory, which is part of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics. 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.

Our tour was led by Jim Jennings, the Instrument Shop Supervisor. They take concepts and ideas that start with astronomers, then work with engineers and machinists to make it happen.  We hadn’t realized how many specialties were involved in developing parts for telescopes.  There were various engineers, including Electrical, Mechanical, Optical, Radio and Software, plus specialists in Adaptive Optics, Instrumentation Science, Machining, and Millimetre Technology.

Dominion Observatory 2

Their shop can make both large and small items.  They have just assembled a 6-m³ cryogenic vessel along with the bench and mounts for SPIRou, a near-infrared spectropolarimeter and high-precision velocimeterbeing designed as a new Guest Instrument for Canada France Hawaii Telescope.  Then Jim showed us a table with many of the small devices they have created.  Many projects need to be exact to the micron!

We learned a lot about the need for accuracy, tolerance, revision numbers, the role of CAD and the need to be able to create good drawings for machinists.

Of course, we loved getting to see the Dome and large telescope.