L’Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic (OMM) is an infrastructure jointly administered by l’Université de Montréal (UdeM) and l’Université Laval (UL). It comprises the experimental astrophysics laboratory (LAE) on the campuses of both universities, and the telescope at the summit of Mont Mégantic in the Eastern Townships. The OMM telescope is a major facility dedicated to fundamental astrophysical research. For its part, the LAE works closely with industrial partners to design high-tech instruments for large telescopes, both on the ground and in space.
In addition to its research and instrument development missions, the OMM also provides academic training. The OMM welcomes many university students at post-graduate level. It trains highly qualified personnel to work in all sectors of society: industrial, university and government research, teaching and communications. Finally, the OMM is also deeply involved in education and the popularization of science. In collaboration with the ASTROLab at Parc national du Mont-Mégantic, the observatory attracts over 20,000 visitors to this region of Quebec every year. The economic spin-offs (especially in terms of tourism and recreation) are estimated at several million dollars.
OMM staff are dedicated to enhancing its telescope and developing cutting-edge astronomical instrumentation not only for its own telescope, but also for major national and international observatories, both on the ground and in space. These projects are carried out in close collaboration with the high-tech industries of Quebec (ABB Bomem, INO, nüvü Camēras) and Canada (COM DEV), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), major Canadian universities and various international partners: NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and various academic institutions in the USA and Europe, particularly in France. OMM researchers are the leaders of major fundamental and instrumental research projects on the international scene. Examples include the first photograph of an extrasolar planet system in 2008, a major scientific breakthrough, and the development of a state-of-the-art instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
The Observatory is located at 1111 m on the summit of Mont Mégantic in the Eastern Townships, some 250 km from Montreal and Quebec City. The Observatory is at the heart of a unique dark sky reserve, the Réserve internationale de ciel étoilé du Mont-Mégantic (RICEMM), which covers an area of almost 5,500 km2. This reserve was created in 2008 to preserve the quality of the starry sky, essential to the sustainability of the astronomy research and education activities carried out at the Mont-Mégantic Observatory, Canada’s leading university research center in astronomy and astrophysics.
More broadly, RICEMM consolidates the recreational and tourism potential of the ASTROLab in Parc national du Mont-Mégantic, while enhancing the beauty of the region’s nocturnal landscapes for all residents. Its creation is the result of a partnership with Hydro-Québec that has generated significant energy savings. The success of RICEMM is stimulating similar projects not only in Quebec, but around the world.