Cronyn Observatory 75th Anniversary Celebration, October 24th, 2015

Cloudy, rainy skies, with some partial clearing later in the evening greeted visitors to Western University’s Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory 75th Anniversary celebration, Saturday, October 24th, 2015, 6:30—11:00 p.m.

There was a private ceremony for invited guests, 6:30—8:00 p.m. Professor Jan Cami was the MC with welcome remarks from Professor Bob Sica, the Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, followed by Professor Pauline Barmby, Associate Dean of Science. Western University’s President Amit Chakma spoke and invited the stage party to unveil the 75th Anniversary plaque and stand for photos. This was followed by a reception, with opportunities for guests to visit other rooms, including the historic exhibit in the basement and the Observatory dome. The guests included current and emeritus faculty members and among the invited guests was Barry Colgrove, grandson of W. G. Colgrove, who arrived accompanied by his wife Marlene and 3 grown children, Sarah, Jeffrey and Laura Colgrove and bringing the 1942 Chant Medal for inspection.

The event was then opened to the public with a re-enactment of the 1940 opening ceremony. RASC Toronto Centre President and David Dunlap Observatory Committee Chair Paul Mortfield read Dr. Clarence Chant’s original speech. (University of Toronto’s Dr. Clarence Chant was RASC President 1904—1907 and moving force behind the building of the David Dunlap Observatory, opened 1935.) RASC London Centre’s Mark Tovey read Dr. H. R. Kingston’s speech complete with “lantern slides” shown on a digital projector. Mark was dressed in period costume complete with H. R. Kingston’s original top hat! This was followed by tours of all rooms of the Observatory until 11:00 p.m. A partial clearing of the sky around 10:00 p.m. enabled visitors to view the 4-day-past-first quarter gibbous Moon through the 25.4cm refractor in the dome.

Professor Jan Cami was chair of the Cronyn 75th Anniversary planning committee and among those present were the other members of the committee, including graduate students Dilini Subasinghe, Parshati Patel, Shannon Hicks, Kendra Kellogg and Emily McCullough; and Physics & Astronomy staff members Henry Leparskas, Phin Perquin, Mike Debruyne, Peter Frank and other members of Physics and Astronomy staff. RASC London Centre members present and on the Cronyn 75th Anniversary planning committee included Dale Armstrong, Bob Duff, Peter Jedicke, Paul Kerans (with Charlene Kerans), Tricia Colvin and Mark Tovey. 

RASC London Centre Public Outreach Coordinator and Past President Dave McCarter was among the invited guests and other London Centre members who showed up included Dave Clark, Everett Clark, Eric Clinton, Roman Dubinski, Bob Duff, Steve Gauthier, Patrick Whelan, Joe O’Neil and Mike Flegel. Other guests included RASC Archivist, Randall Rosenfeld and RASC Toronto Centre President and David Dunlap Observatory Chair Paul Mortfield.

Faculty members present included Professors Sarah Gallagher, Paul Wiegert, Aaron Sigut, Stan Metchev, Els Peeter, Carol Jones, Martin Houde, Phil McCausland and others. Professors Emeritus Patrick Whippey, Amelia Wehlau, Jim Moorhead, and John Landstreet (with wife Barbara and daughter Sarah) were there along with retired observatory technician, Michel (Mike) Debruyne. Communications, Public Relations and Science Engagement Director, Marilyn Steinberg was also among those present. 

Peter Jedicke and Physics and Astronomy Undergraduate Assistant, Keri Knox, greeted arriving visitors and handed out a selection of 5 special 75th Anniversary commemorative postcards. Peter later served with Paul Wiegert as lecture room usher for the ceremony. There were 10 informational and 3 commemorative / decorative posters on display in the entrance foyer (Hume Cronyn and family), lecture room, stairway, basement and dome, made for the occasion with the intent of keeping them at the Cronyn Observatory permanently.

Graduate student Tony Martinez and undergraduate student William Hyland served as guides as visitors toured the basement black room, made into an “artifact room” which included the Sotellunium—a mechanical eclipse demonstration model—built by W. G. Colgrove, along with research equipment such as a stellar photometer, used by Dr. William Wehlau, and artifacts, such as a sundial canon and various posters and old photographs. There was a slide show playing as well with historical images of the Cronyn Observatory.

Mark Tovey wore H. R. Kingston’s top hat for the re-enactment and later downstairs in the “period room” seated at Kingston’s desk. The “period room” recreated H. R. Kingston’s office, based on a photograph from 1940, and was designed by Mark Tovey. Serving as costumed historical interpreters in the “period room,” with Mark were Tricia Colvin, Peter Jedicke and Paul Wiegert. Also on display in the “period room” was the Dresden meteorite (from Western’s Earth Sciences Department) in a glass case alongside a cast of the meteorite (loaned for the occasion by the London Life Insurance Company). The original guest book was in a glass case on a table with a poster on the wall above displaying and identifying the signatures, as well as a new guest book for visitors to sign. Official photographers included P&A staff member Henry Leparskas, who took care of video coverage and still photography; with additional still photography by Dale Armstrong, Western Science Communications Officer Mitchell Zimmer, graduate students Ghazal Farhani and Parshati Patel, and undergraduate student Ian Mullholland.

Graduate students Dilini Subasinghe and Laura Lenkic were telescope operators for the evening. Graduate student and London Centre member Emily McCullough served as guide in the dome. When the clouds partially cleared around 10:00 p.m., they opened the dome and began showing visitors the Moon through the big 25.4cm refractor, using the 52mm Erfle (84X) and then the 32mm Erfle (137X) eyepieces. 

There were an estimated 100—130 visitors for the evening, which ended with Emily McCullough closing the dome at 11:45 p.m. It was a very fitting celebration of the Cronyn Observatory’s 75th Anniversary.