May 17th, 2024

Saturn takes its place in the city’s solar system

By Herald on October 20, 2021.

Workers from Gilmar Crane Services install Saturn,  the last piece of the Lethbridge Astronomy Society scale model of the Solar System at the entrance of Chinook High School. Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – Lethbridge Herald

The last installation of the Lethbridge Astronomy Society’s solar system model was installed earlier this week in front of Chinook High School. 

Saturn, which is the last planet to be installed was funded by the Lethbridge School Division, making Chinook High School the only school with a planet. 

“The installation of Saturn was much more complicated than the others, so we are very happy to see that it got completed,” said Tom Anderson, President of the Lethbridge Astronomy Society. 

Recently, the society has installed various planets at locations in and around Lethbridge to create a scale model of the solar system that can be visited and explored by residents.

Even though the last planet has been installed, the project is not complete yet. Descriptive plaques are going to be placed at each installation with basic information about the planet, and a QR code that will take those interested to the Lethbridge Astronomy Society website to learn more detailed information. 

“We are thinking that this model is going to be a significant draw for a lot of different sectors… we think it would be a great thing for school groups, they could have fieldtrips and go to different planets, or they can try to see all of them in an afternoon,” said Anderson. 

Anderson believes there are some business opportunities as well, as businesses could sponsor a planet and if they were a sport store, they could do a bike tour around the inner planets or even go all the way out to Neptune by Park Lake and back. 

“That’s kind of where we see that project going. It is going to be a permanent installation, so it will be there for years to come, and we are interested and excited to see what develops from it,” added Anderson. 

The solar system project was fully funded by grants from the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta, Telus, Ward Brothers Construction, and Richardson Oilseeds which provided the base funding. And the Lethbridge School Division which funded the Saturn model, and the University of Lethbridge which funded the Jupiter model.

As far as the society itself goes, once the solar system project is wrapped up, they will be focusing on their main activities like tutorials for the astrophysics students at the University of Lethbridge. They give them instruction on what telescopes are all about, how the different telescopes and mounts work and they give them a view of various objects in the sky. 

Once the pandemic has eased they plan to restart their free public observing night once per month, which they used to offer for educational purposes, mainly for school groups, Scouts, Brownies and Guides. They have continued to do so in an online format at the present time. 

“One of the advantages of doing it online is that we are able to host Scouts, Brownies and Guides from all across Canada. We give a pretty similar program to what we are able to offer down at the observatory here,” said Anderson. 

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