Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory research facility

Visitor information

The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) provides free public guided tours of the observatory's telescopes throughout the spring and summer. Tours run approximately 60 minutes, but can vary in length.

Beginning March 30, 2024 tours will run on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 am to 3 pm, on a first-come, first-served basis — booking is not required. If you are a group of 10 or more or an educational group, please contact us to plan your visit.

Please note we will be closed on April 6, 7, 13, and 14.

During the summer we reserve the right to close tours if the temperature is above 38C or if smoke conditions are above the recommended healthy level. We encourage visitors to look at the weather and smoke forecasts before coming to the site.

The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) is an internationally known facility for science and technology research and development related to radio astronomy. Home to NRC astronomers, astrophysicists, engineers and technologists, as well as visiting researchers and students from universities and astronomical observatories around the world, these facilities support the design and development of leading-edge instrumentation for new and existing telescopes. Operating several telescopes on its extensive radio-quiet site near Penticton BC, DRAO also features laboratories and specialized equipment for design and construction of all aspects of radio-frequency instrumentation, from highly sensitive antennas and receiver systems to high speed digital signal processing hardware and software.

Our capabilities

  • John A. Galt Telescope: a 26-m diameter, prime-focus, equatorially mounted telescope with interchangeable feeds that currently operate from 0.4 to 2 GHz.
  • Synthesis Telescope: a 7-element array of 9-m telescopes that offers wide-field continuum imaging simultaneously at 408 MHz and 1420 MHz, as well as atomic hydrogen (HI) spectroscopy across 256 channels at 1420 MHz. It is particularly suited to studying the gas and plasma that lies between the stars, i.e. the interstellar medium, of both the Milky Way and nearby galaxies.
  • Solar radio flux monitoring: a fully automated solar weather monitoring facility that provides "space weather" data for many scientific and commercial activities at both industrial organizations and government agencies around the world. The primary data product is one of the most widely used indicators of solar activity and is known internationally as the 10.7cm solar radio flux, or F10.7. A next-generation solar flux monitor (NGSFM) has just been completed in collaboration with Natural Resources Canada and the Canadian Space Agency. The NGSFM is designed to provide the solar flux at five additional wavelengths, providing greater insight into the processes underlying solar storms and other solar phenomena that impact the Earth.

The site also hosts collaborators' instruments requiring a radio-quiet environment.

  • Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME): Canada's largest radio telescope, CHIME is a collaboration between the University of British Columbia, McGill University and the University of Toronto. Collecting radio emissions from the Universe between 400 and 800 MHz, it is designed to survey atomic hydrogen from the largest volume of the Universe to date. This novel telescope, with no moving parts, is composed of four 100-metre by 20-metre cylinders with an array of 128 radio receivers along each focus, leading to 2048 inputs into the high-power digital data processor system. CHIME maps the whole sky visible overhead every day.

Access and use

DRAO has been at the centre of more than 50 years of outstanding achievement in astronomical sciences and technology development. This includes the ground-breaking Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) technique that telescopes at DRAO and the Algonquin Observatory in Ontario used to produce observations of similar resolution (i.e. level of detail) that a single radio telescope thousands of kilometres across might achieve. More recently, the 26-m Telescope and Synthesis Telescope were the primary sources of data for the Canadian Galactic Plane Survey (CGPS) that was observed between 1995 and 2009.

Major technology development projects have included the ACSIS spectrometer built for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii, USA and the WIDAR correlator for the Jansky Very Large Array (JVLA) in New Mexico, USA, currently the largest operating radio telescope in the world. DRAO is currently working on novel technologies for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), including composite telescope construction, phased-array feed and receiver systems, low-noise amplifiers, and digital signal processing hardware and software.