U of L joins U of C in creating ISIS

The University of Lethbridge and the University of Calgary have joined forces to create a new institute to lead Canada in innovative space imaging technologies and their applications to advance our understanding of space.

A memorandum of understanding has been agreed by the two universities to start up the Institute for Space Imaging Science (ISIS).

"We have a very strong and productive history of space science in the province, both universities having been involved in major international space exploration missions. ISIS builds on this history by marrying the expertise and broad experience at each university," says Chris Nicol, Dean of Arts and Science at the University of Lethbridge. "In addition to the pure fundamental research, this program promotes a cross-university, cross-faculty and highly interdisciplinary approach to the wide-range of technology challenges and science opportunities presented by space imaging."

Russ Taylor, director of ISIS and the head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the U of C, adds the future of space imaging now resides in Alberta.

"This is a huge undertaking but a very worthwhile venture for the institutions and for the future of space science imaging in this province," says Taylor. "The province of Alberta is already a national leader in space sciences. The agreement builds on this strength to create a unique international centre for space imaging sciences, technology and innovation here in southern Alberta."

Space imaging science uses imaging technologies to understand space, from the near-Earth environment and space weather to the edge of the observable universe and the origins of cosmic structure. University of Lethbridge professor Dr. David Naylor heads up the Astronomical Instrumentation Group (AIG) and under his leadership, the ISIS project became a reality.

Within ISIS, researchers seek answers to questions about the northern lights, the Earth's geomagnetic field that protects us from explosions on the Sun, space weather that affects global navigation systems, meteorites and potentially harmful near-Earth asteroids, the formation of stars and new planets, the nature of the Milky Way Galaxy that we live in, and the origin and evolution of the universe itself.

Engineers and technicians work with the scientists to develop new and improved ways to image space to provide the data that we need.

The Square Kilometre array(SKA) project, led by the U of C in collaboration with institutions overseas and in the U.S., will design and construct the largest radio telescope ever built which will be used to study naturally occurring radio emissions from stars, galaxies and the edge of the universe to a time before stars and galaxies.

The Astronomical Instrumentation group, headquartered out of the U of L, is leading the development of Canadian imaging technology at far infrared wavelengths, just beyond the range of light visible to humans. Its work contributes to many international projects and will be part of the European Space Agency's Herschel space launch, scheduled to take place in April.

The NESS (Near Earth Space Surveillance) project led by Alan Hildebrand, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Planetary Science in U of C's Department of Geoscience, will use the NEOSSat microsatellite to search the inner solar system for unknown asteroids. This innovative spacecraft is funded by the Canadian Space Agency and Defence Research and Development Canada and will be launched next year.