Black Nugget Lake Observatory

A visionary project to provide Albertans with awe-inspiring views of the Universe.


Illustration of finished observatory.

RASC Edmonton Centre is building a dark sky observatory at Black Nugget Lake Park, 70 km (42 miles) southeast of Edmonton. This is sufficiently distant from Edmonton, that truly dark skies can be enjoyed. The observatory will house the largest telescope in Western Canada for the public to look through at a dark site.

The Telescope

The telescope is a folded Newtonian instrument with a primary mirror 81 cm (32 in) in diameter. The optical components, made by legendary mirror maker Barry Arnold and donated by former Edmonton Centre member Robert Drew, are finished. Construction of the telescope is underway by master telescope builder Roman Unyk.

The Facility

The observatory will consist of two buildings: an observatory building with a 4.25 m (14 ft) domed roof and a warm-up trailer. We have acquired both the dome and the trailer and are in the process of getting development approval from Beaver County. We have a long-term agreement with Beaver County for the site.

Illustration of telescope and dome. Figure to scale.

Fact Sheet

Current facilities include an observing field, a washroom, and a storage shed. To be developed are an observatory building and a warmup trailer.

Observatory Site
The observatory site is a graveled field about 70 m square. There’s a berm to the north shielding the field from the adjacent road and golf course operation, and there are trees and slopes to the east and west shielding the site from prevailing winds. The cleared area is near a group camp site at Black Nugget Lake Campground.

Who will use it?
The observatory building will be used by RASC Edmonton Centre members, trained users from the local community and by visiting members of the public. Telescope equipment will be operated only by qualified RASC Edmonton Centre members. It is anticipated that volunteers from the local community such as teachers in the science program will become RASC Edmonton Centre members and take the requisite training to use the equipment.

Public Education
Public education will be provided through star parties, group outings sponsored by the RASC Edmonton Centre and invited members of the public. Beaver County will be able to offer educational sessions to County residents and school groups. Additional public education will be provided by the results of observing programs and astrophotography activities by users. In future, results could include publication of observing and photography results to the web as well as possible on-line observing sessions. Results of observing activities may also include contributions to astronomical science.

Enhanced Observing
The observatory will provide a location for a permanent instrument that would be used for a variety of observing and astrophotography programs. RASC members using this facility will have the means to do citizen science (contributions of amateur astronomers to the field of professional astronomy). A number of our members do this now and future RASC members coming from the community will be able to join in this activity.

Public Awareness
Star parties, observing outings and results of observing programs will raise public awareness of astronomy.

Telescope Equipment
There is currently a fine 46 cm (18 in) Dobsonian telescope on a Poncet mount situated at the Black Nugget Lake Observatory. It is accessible to authorized RASC Edmonton Centre members. This telescope will be part of Black Nugget Lake Observatory.

The telescope is under construction, with expected completion in late 2018. The site preparation will be completed in late summer 2018. The observatory will be completed in 2019, with first light projected for September 28.

For more information, contact the BNLO Committee.

The Black Nugget Lake Observatory will thrill Albertans with views of the heavens for generations.