Located just south west of Penticton, not only is the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory the largest of its kind in Canada, it is situated in a beautiful location which makes it even more worthy of a visit. Moreover, the visit is free.
The Dominion Radio Observatory opened in 1960 using a first parabolic antenna with a span of almost 26 m (85 ft.) designed primarily to measure hydrogen in the Universe, the most common gas.
Using the Observatory, astronomers have been able to extend our understanding of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, but also of the broader Universe.
From Forgotten Hill B&B, head south towards Penticton. Rejoin Highway 97 on the west side of Penticton, and head south in the direction of Kaleden, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos.
as the 97 climbs just south of Penticton, overlooking Skaha Lake, you will see signage indicating Highway 3A and Vancouver. Continue a short distance past that intersection on Hwy 97, towards Osoyoos. Shortly after the Hwy 97 and Hwy 3A intersection, you will see White Lake road on your right. Turn onto White Lake road. Signage indicates the Dominon Radio Astrophysical Observatory.
White Lake road is a beautiful road that winds through the hills. A few minutes after passing St. Andrews by the Lake Golf Course, you will find the entrance to the grounds of the Dominion Radio Observatory entrance, on the left. We recommend parking your car at the entrance and walking the short distance to the Observatory.
The Observatory consists of a number of radio telescopes. Soon after it opened, a second radio telescope was built at the White Lake site. Consisting of 1,700 cedar posts carrying several kilometers of wires, the T-shaped telescope covers a 1.3 kilometers (0.8 mi.) distance giving it a surface area of some 65,000 square meters (nearly 700,000 sq. ft.). This telescope was used to study radio sources within our galaxy, such as quasars, and distant galaxies.
The further addition of the Synthesis Array Radio Telescope, composed of seven 8.5 meter (27.8 ft.) parabolic antennas mounted on tracks near the entrance of the grounds, allowed astronomers to work on the Canadian Galactic Plane Survey, which mapped a large portion of the Milky Way.
The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory has a visitor center, located near the 26 m telescope, and also provides a recorded audio explanation of the observatory and the research carried on there near the T-shaped telescope.
A final note, White Lake Road is a beautiful drive, and if followed to its end rejoins Hwy 3A near Twin Lakes, allowing you to return to Penticton. Alternatively, turning shortly after the Radio Observatory grounds onto Willowbrook Road, and following it south until a left turn onto Fairview Road, takes you to Osoyoos, near the US border. From there taking Hwy 97 North, will allow you to go through Oliver, where a number of wineries are located, then through Okanagan Falls, where there are more wineries, and then back to Penticton.