Introduction : Canada and Astronomy
During the era when the New World was discovered and Canada was taking form, mankind believed that the earth was the centre of the universe. About the same time that Québec was founded, a revolutionary event was taking place in Europe that would shake the very foundations of man’s view of the world: the invention of the telescope. Ancient theories were shattered, the earth was but an insignificant heavenly body in the cosmos and humanity had lost its traditional points of reference. The telescope marked the end of the geocentric universe and the passage toward a Universe of unconceivable dimensions.
Since then, astronomers have continued to perfect this fabulous instrument and explore awe-inspiring cosmic landscapes. Thanks to telescopes, we have discovered a new world.
Canada was in the throes of nationhood at the same time as new astronomy was emerging and participated in its development and discoveries. Did you know that at one time, two of the four largest telescopes in the world were in Canada? Were you aware that our first observatories served to determine time with precision? Did you know that today Canada is involved in some highly sophisticated projects, and that Canadian astronomers are renowned for being the most efficient in the world?
Indeed, few Canadians are aware that between 1994 and 2004, work carried out by Canadian astronomers resulted in the best “citation rate” in the world. And what does this mean? It means that on average, each paper published by a Canadian astronomer has been quoted 16 times by other astronomers around the world , and that this average is the best recorded for all countries. The citation rate by peers represents a means of measuring the usefulness and quality of research carried out.
Based on the “Canada under the Stars” virtual exhibit highlights aspects of the legacy left to us by the impassioned stargazers of our country. It is thanks to this legacy that modern Canadian astronomers have garnered a world-class reputation in the field of astronomy.