February 26, 2022

‘Once an astronomer, always an astronomer’: York U’s Paul Delaney leaving observatory after 30 years as director

After 30 years as director of the Allan I. Carswell Astronomical Observatory, frequent CTV News contributor astronomy professor Paul Delaney is stepping down ahead of his retirement later this year.

Delaney steps back from the position Wednesday, ending three decades as director of the observatory at the university where’s he’s taught even longer.

“For 35 years, my second home, my home away from home, has been the campus observatory and the students and the night sky,” Delaney told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. “That is going to diminish obviously tomorrow, but as I said… once an astronomer always an astronomer.” 

Delaney began his career at York University in 1986, when he began teaching both undergraduate and graduate students.

In 2017, he helped acquire funding for a one-metre telescope that was installed in 2019, and remains the largest one on any Canadian post-secondary campus.

In 2018, Delaney was named the first ever Allan I. Carswell Chair for the Public Understanding of Astronomy.

Delaney’s teachings and impact go beyond the post-secondary realm.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, public viewings were hosted at the observatory and attracted approximately 5,000 visitors on a weekly basis. During the pandemic, Delaney was also part of weekly livestreams, hosted by students and faculty, that had more than 15,000 viewers from all over the world.

Delaney said, of all the things at the observatory, he’s going to miss the students the most.

“We spent a lot of time together, observing one thing or another, battling the problems that telescopes in observatories always have, but invariably, looking at wonderful science across the universe.”

With Delaney’s retirement, Sarah Rugheimer, Glasstone research fellow and Hugh Price fellow at Jesus College Oxford, will become the next Carswell Chair. Elaine Hyde, assistant professor at the department of physics and astronomy at the school, will become the new director of the observatory.

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