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Toward the definite termination of activities at the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic?

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced, on March 31st 2009, that the subsidy allocated to the Observatoire du Mont Mégantic will be reduced by 40% and will terminate at the end of the year 2009. The decision is presented as definitive.

The NSERC budget cut applies immediately: $140,000 will be cut this year and a definite cancellation of the $325,000 contribution will be effective for the subsequent years. The OMM, first and only international night sky reserve in urban environment also receives annual funds from the Université de Montreal, from the Université Laval and the Quebec government.

"This announcement is catastrophic for us. It simply means that we will have to shut down this observatory by the end of the year 2009, unless we find supplementary sources of funding shortly" says Robert Lamontagne, executive director of this unique laboratory in Canada.

"Hundred of PhD students were formed at the OMM. By cutting the funds, it simply cuts the legs of astrophysics in Quebec. We form generations of astronomers. This announce means literally that what we have done over the past 30 years can be reduced to nothing» says Laurent Drissen, professor and astrophysicist at the Université Laval.

The OMM, which principal mission is cutting-edge research in astrophysics and academic training, contributed to the formation of many leading astrophysicists all around the world. Among them are: Pierre Martin, who become director of the WYIN telescope in the US, Jean-René Roy, who is head of another the Gemini telescope in Hawaii, and also René Racine, former director of the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope. At the present time, a dozen of graduate students are using the OMM telescope for their research project.

Ironically, it should be reminded that René Doyon was elected scientist of the year 2008 with his former students Christian Marois and David Lafrèniere by the team of Radio-Canada's show "Les Années Lumieres". It should also be noted that this recognition was awarded in 2007 to Chloé Legris, an engineer and project manager at the ASTROLab of the Mont-Megantic National Park and at the OMM, for the development of the first International Night Sky Reserve in urban environment.

In addition, the OMM program of public outreach is especially active this year because of the IAU International year of Astronomy. The OMM and the Astrolab of the Mont Mégantic National Park are expecting a record number of visitors in 2009. "The planned outreach activities will take place at least until the end of the summer, but their future is quite uncertain after this date" says Robert Lamontagne.

Informations : Dr. Olivier Hernandez, relation avec les médias
CRAQ – Université de Montréal
514-343-6111 poste 4681

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