Sidney van den Bergh was born in 1929 in Wassenaar, Netherlands. He spent one year at the University of Leiden and then went to Princeton University in the United States on a scholarship. He received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1950, and his master’s from Ohio State University in 1952. He finished his studies in 1956 with a doctoral degree from the University of Göttingen in Germany.

He was hired as a professor at Ohio State University the same year he graduated, and he stayed there until 1958 when he accepted a professorship at the David Dunlap Observatory of the University of Toronto in Ontario. He became involved in expanding the observatory’s facilities, perfecting computerized calculation techniques, and developing the field of polychrome photometry. For the latter, he collaborated with Robert D. McClure to design a photometric system that would go on to be used around the world for photometric studies.

Van den Bergh’s main specialty was the study of meteors, but his interests quickly diversified and by 1960 he had already published numerous articles on globular clusters, interstellar clouds, galaxies and supernovae. I Read More
Sidney van den Bergh was born in 1929 in Wassenaar, Netherlands. He spent one year at the University of Leiden and then went to Princeton University in the United States on a scholarship. He received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1950, and his master’s from Ohio State University in 1952. He finished his studies in 1956 with a doctoral degree from the University of Göttingen in Germany.

He was hired as a professor at Ohio State University the same year he graduated, and he stayed there until 1958 when he accepted a professorship at the David Dunlap Observatory of the University of Toronto in Ontario. He became involved in expanding the observatory’s facilities, perfecting computerized calculation techniques, and developing the field of polychrome photometry. For the latter, he collaborated with Robert D. McClure to design a photometric system that would go on to be used around the world for photometric studies.

Van den Bergh’s main specialty was the study of meteors, but his interests quickly diversified and by 1960 he had already published numerous articles on globular clusters, interstellar clouds, galaxies and supernovae. In 1962, he added the Moon to his list of studied celestial objects. Subsequent years, however, were primarily devoted to the study of variable stars, globular clusters, interstellar clouds, galaxies and supernovae.

His work on the classification and evolution of galaxies, as well as on the extragalactic distance scale, led him to make several estimates of the size and age of the Universe. He thus became a world expert in the field of matter.

Nebula van den Bergh 142 Van den Bergh began his interest in comets in 1973 and discovered a new comet in 1974 that bears his name. In 1986, he was able to obtain remarkable images of the jets emanating from Halley’s comet.

In 1977, he was named Director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia, and he occupied the post starting in 1978. Four years later, he became President and Chairman of the Board of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation. He retired in 1986, but retained a researcher position at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria.

Today, van den Bergh focuses his research on the classification and the evolution of galaxies using images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. He retains an interest in a number of diverse subjects: among others, he published an article in 1992 that refuted the idea of an astronomical significance for the Nazca lines of Peru, and one in 1994 demonstrating that it is unlikely supernova explosions caused mass extinctions on Earth.

Van den Bergh has published more than 500 scientific articles. He received numerous awards for his work and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Asteroid 4230 bears his name in his honour.

© 2006 An original idea and a realization of the ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

Black and white photo of Sidney van den Bergh

Sidney van den Bergh.

Sidney van den Bergh

© Sidney van den Bergh


Colour Photo of Nebula van den Bergh 142

Nebula van den Bergh 142, a celestial object catalogued by the Canadian astronomer.

Ewell Observatory

© Ewell Observatory


Hubert Reeves was born in 1932 in Montreal, Quebec. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Montreal in 1953, his master’s from McGill University in Montreal in 1955, and his doctoral degree from Cornell University in New York in 1960.

He was a professor in the physics department at the University of Montreal from 1960 to 1964, all the while serving as a consultant for the Institute for Space Studies in New York. In 1965, he became the Director of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (“National Science Research Centre”) in Paris and a scientific consultant for the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique (“Nuclear Energy Commission”) in Saclay, France.

A specialist in astrophysics, Reeves studies the thermonuclear reactions that occur in stars; that is, the reactions that create the chemical elements that make up matter. Since 1962, his work has focused on nuclear reactions involving carbon and oxygen. He also focuses part of his research on neutrinos, a type of subatomic particle that we still know very little about.

In 1967, he became increasingly interested in the origin of the ligh Read More
Hubert Reeves was born in 1932 in Montreal, Quebec. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Montreal in 1953, his master’s from McGill University in Montreal in 1955, and his doctoral degree from Cornell University in New York in 1960.

He was a professor in the physics department at the University of Montreal from 1960 to 1964, all the while serving as a consultant for the Institute for Space Studies in New York. In 1965, he became the Director of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (“National Science Research Centre”) in Paris and a scientific consultant for the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique (“Nuclear Energy Commission”) in Saclay, France.

A specialist in astrophysics, Reeves studies the thermonuclear reactions that occur in stars; that is, the reactions that create the chemical elements that make up matter. Since 1962, his work has focused on nuclear reactions involving carbon and oxygen. He also focuses part of his research on neutrinos, a type of subatomic particle that we still know very little about.

In 1967, he became increasingly interested in the origin of the light elements lithium, beryllium and boron. The very high temperatures that occur inside stars would destroy these three elements, so they must form elsewhere, namely out in space.

In 1968, he published Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis, and in 1972 he wrote Nuclear Reactions in Stellar Surfaces and their Relations with Stellar Evolution. These were the only two publications, among his many books, that were written for specialists in the field.

In 1971, Reeves helped demonstrate, along with other colleagues, that a process known as “spallation” creates lithium, beryllium and boron. During this process, the atomic nuclei of relatively heavy elements, like oxygen, “break” under the impact of cosmic rays (particles that travel at high speed through space). Some of the “pieces” created by these collisions are lithium, beryllium or boron atoms.

Solar wind collectorIn 1972, Reeves collaborated with Johannes Geiss to explain the origin of two other light elements: deuterium and helium-3. The test for their hypothesis was made possible by experiments conducted during the Apollo moon missions, and the results also allowed them to estimate the density of normal matter in the Universe.

In 1977, Reeves published Soleil (“Sun”), his first popular science book. Four years later, in 1981, he wrote another, Patience dans l’azur (“Patience in the Sky”), about the different steps in the formation of the Universe that gained immediate international acclaim. Another 15 or so popular astronomy books were published in the years to follow, some with co-authors.

The beginning of the 1980’s marked a time of increasing popularity for Reeves as he gave many public lectures and appeared on television shows and in films, speaking not just on the topic of astronomy, but also the environment.

Reeves received many awards and distinctions for his work in astronomy and public communications. In 2001, he and Johannes Geiss received the Einstein prize for their work on the density of the Universe. Asteroid 9631 was named in his honour.

© 2006 An original idea and a realization of the ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

Colour photo of a solar wind collector deployed on the Moon

Solar wind collector deployed on the Moon.

NASA/NSSDC ID: 1971-063C-11

© NASA/NSSDC ID: 1971-063C-11


Colour video of Hubert Reeves in front of images of space

Hubert Reeves explains what science is.

Hubert Reeves explains what science is. Science is trying to understand how things work using notions that, historically, are not derived from outside our world – notions that do not rely on belief or non-physical entities. It’s about staying within the physical world and correlating different events to understand why, for example, apples fall and the Moon turns around the Earth. It’s about trying to create a theory that allows you to understand what is going on, to predict what will happen (up to a certain point), and above all, to model. In other words, it’s about developing a mathematical understanding (science depends heavily mathematics) of what is happening… putting it into an equation to understand it and model it. In general, that sums it up: trying to understand how nature works without invoking supernatural forces.

ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

© ASTROLab/Mont-Mégantic National Park


René Racine was born in 1939 in Quebec City. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Laval University in Quebec City in 1963, and went on to the University of Toronto where he received his master’s degree in 1965 and his doctoral degree in 1967. He then obtained a research scholarship at the Carnegie Institute and spent the next two years (1967-1969) at the Mount Wilson and Palomar observatories near Pasadena, California.

Racine specializes in the study of globular clusters. Globular clusters are collections of stars that form a spherical shape containing anywhere from 10,000 to millions of stars. Racine studies them using photometry, a technique that measures the intensity of light emitted from an object, which can be used to extract information about its size, temperature, etc.

In 1969, he became a professor in the astronomy and astrophysics department of the University of Toronto. Upon his arrival, Racine teamed up with colleagues Sidney van den Bergh and Robert F. Garrison to propose that the new observatory for the university be built at Las Campanas in Chile. The 60-centimetre telescope saw first light in 1971, and Racine equipped it with a n Read More
René Racine was born in 1939 in Quebec City. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Laval University in Quebec City in 1963, and went on to the University of Toronto where he received his master’s degree in 1965 and his doctoral degree in 1967. He then obtained a research scholarship at the Carnegie Institute and spent the next two years (1967-1969) at the Mount Wilson and Palomar observatories near Pasadena, California.

Racine specializes in the study of globular clusters. Globular clusters are collections of stars that form a spherical shape containing anywhere from 10,000 to millions of stars. Racine studies them using photometry, a technique that measures the intensity of light emitted from an object, which can be used to extract information about its size, temperature, etc.

In 1969, he became a professor in the astronomy and astrophysics department of the University of Toronto. Upon his arrival, Racine teamed up with colleagues Sidney van den Bergh and Robert F. Garrison to propose that the new observatory for the university be built at Las Campanas in Chile. The 60-centimetre telescope saw first light in 1971, and Racine equipped it with a new photometer of his own design.

René Racine In 1976, he became astronomy professor for the physics department at the University of Montreal. Racine played a key role in the creation of the new Mont-Mégantic Observatory and was its director from 1976 to 1980.

In 1980, he was named Executive Director of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation (CFWT). He worked on improving the image quality of the telescope and succeeded in producing the highest resolution images in the world, all the while pursuing his work in astronomical research. In 1984, he left his post as Director of the CFWT and returned as Director of the Mont-Mégantic Observatory.

Racine developed numerous astronomical instruments during the following years, and his efforts were rewarded anew in 1994 when he and five other colleagues succeeded in revising the value of the Hubble constant, a fundamental parameter in cosmology that serves (among other things) to measure extragalactic distances, and the size and age of the Universe.

In 1997, he retired from his positions as Adjunct Full Professor and Director of the Mont-Mégantic Observatory, and became Professor Emeritus at the University of Montreal.

Racine was elected as a member of the Royal Society of Canada in 1989 and the Order of Canada in 1999. In 2005, he was made an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec (National Order of Quebec).

© 2006 An original idea and a realization of the ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

Colour photo of the Globular cluster M-80

Globular cluster M-80.

Obscur Projet d'Imagerie of the Mont-Mégantic Observatory

© Obscur Projet d'Imagerie of the Mont-Mégantic Observatory


Colour photo of René Racine in front of the mirror

René Racine in front of the mirror of the Mont-Mégantic telescope during construction of the observatory.

ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

© ASTROLab/Mont-Mégantic National Park


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • identify recent contributions, including Canada’s, to the development of space exploration technologies;
  • describe in detail the function of Canadian technologies involved in exploration of space;
  • draw a solar system with all its components;
  • establish the link between atoms and light using different instruments.

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