UBC operates the third largest optical telescope in North America. Located within a two hour drive of the campus, the Large Zenith Telescope employs a rotating liquid mercury mirror with a 6-metre aperture. The telescope observes the region of sky directly overhead using a drift-scanning CCD camera which prevents image blur from the rotation of the Earth. Over the course of a year, the telescope can observe up to 60 square degrees of sky. It's primary scientific aim is to survey this region through a set of narrow-band filters to measure spectral energy distributions of stars, galaxies and quasars. Details of the telescope and images can be found on the main LZT web site.
The telescope is presently being upgraded with the installation of a lidar system. The lidar employs a powerful pulsed laser and sensitive detectors to measure densty profiles of the Earth's sodium layer with high time resolution. These measurements are critical for the design of the TMT facility adaptive optics system which relies on laser guide stars, created in the sodium layer, to sense and correct atmospheric turbulence.