Astronomers look to massive telescope for Whistler 

Nemy, Legate approach council for free land

John Nemy and Carol Legate of the Pacific Observatory would like to see an observatory similar to this in Whistler. Photo submitted
  • John Nemy and Carol Legate of the Pacific Observatory would like to see an observatory similar to this in Whistler. Photo submitted

Two local astronomers have their heads in the sky with a grand dream for Whistler.

John Nemy and Carol Legate of the Pacific Observatory are putting together a plan that would bring a massive telescope – the Very Large People’s Telescope (VLPT) – along with what they call a World Eco-Centre to the resort.

"This centre will help define what Whistler is – a globally aware mountain community," said Nemy, who has been teaching people about the stars for 20 years.

"This is on the iconic level," he later added. "This is like the CN Tower kind of thing."

Nemy and Legate presented their concept to council Monday night and asked them for land to make this vision a reality.

While council was not immediately forthcoming with a free 15-acre site, they did encourage the astronomers to pursue their plan further.

Mayor Ken Melamed called the vision "tremendously inspiring."

"I encourage you to keep us informed," he added.

Monday’s slideshow presentation captured the imagination of other councillors too.

"It’s these kind of wild ideas that make this a great place," said Councillor Ralph Forsyth.

Stepping up to the VLPT guests will see planets in unprecedented detail, along with stars, star clusters and dying stars, to name just a few of the wonders of space.

Nemy doesn’t see science or studying the stars as the only legitimate activity for the VLPT. Instead he sees it as a life-changing experience for people to look into the depths of space and see the world as they’ve never seen it before.

"I think it’s coming to the time where the value of literally stepping up to an instrument like this and looking through it… will be priceless, a lifetime memory I think," he said.

But he doesn’t want this to just be about the stars. Rather, the bigger picture concept, he said, is to teach people about a better coexistence on the planet.

"We’d like to give them some sense of place and understanding of where they are, where they’re going, from the world of nature, in a natural setting," he said.

He suggested a great place for the VLPT and the World Eco-Centre could be in the Callaghan Valley, in conjunction with the Whistler Nordic Centre, home of the Nordic events in the 2010 Olympics. Another good site, he suggested, is the athletes’ village cum legacy neighbourhood in the Lower Cheakamus.

The plan as envisioned would cost millions of dollars. Nemy and Legate are in discussions with potential partners. Meanwhile they are working on the design of the VLPT.

The cost all depends on how grand the project turns out to be.

"We’re pursuing this in any form or fashion just to make it happen because we just truly believe that something like this should exist on the planet, and I think one of the best places for it really is Whistler," said Nemy.

Council encouraged the astronomers to pitch their project to Tourism Whistler and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce to gather support and momentum. They also asked to see a business plan of the project.

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