Toronto: Canada is shuttering a critical teaching observatory in eastern North America where the first dark skies reserve was created, its director told AFP on Wednesday.
The Observatoire Astronomique du Mont-Mégantic in Quebec province is described by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as "the most important observatory of North America`s East Coast" because of its sheer size.
Its telescope holds a 1.6 meter mirror and weighs almost 24 tons. The observatory has been used to discover several planetary bodies in distant skies.
Located 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Montreal in a sparsely populated region at an altitude of 1,100 meters (3,600 feet), it was inaugurated in 1978.
Three decades later the first dark sky reserve -- an area kept free of artificial light pollution in order to facilitate stargazing -- was established around the observatory.
Rene Doyon, a professor at the University of Montreal, who is responsible for keeping the observatory up and running, said: "Our federal financing to operate the observatory is being cut."
Ottawa provided Can$500,000 (US$400,000) annually, about half of the observatory`s operating costs.
Doyon said Canadian astronomers made their objections over its closure known to the government but officials did not respond.
"It`s the only university observatory currently operating in Canada," he said.
The funding cut comes on the heels of the closure of several scientific libraries last year, which researchers also protested.
Both initiatives are part of the ruling Conservatives` efforts to slash spending and bring in the first budgetary surplus since the 2009 global recession, ahead of October elections.
The obseratory is scheduled to close on April 1.