Cosmic Ray Research Station

1956

The first meteorological station on Sulphur Mountain was built in 1902 and consisted of a twelve-foot square stone hut. For the next 30 years, Mr. Norman Sanson climbed the peak every week or fortnight to replace the recorder charts; in winter the journey could take up to 9 hours on snowshoes.

The Cosmic Ray Station was built in the winter of 1956-57 as part of Canada’s contribution to the International Geophysical Year (1957-58). Cosmic rays intensify at the geomagnetic pole and are easier to track at higher elevations; the monitor on Sulphur Mountain was among the most sensitive in the world. 

The Cosmic Ray Station became operable in late spring 1957 after the hauling and installation of five tons of equipment at the site. Dr. Brian Wilson of the National Research Council was appointed Office-in-Charge; his initial research trip was extended by a week at the station after he came down with the chicken pox.

The Station was part of a world-wide network of cosmic ray monitors; the data received and recorded was invaluable in the furthering of our understanding of space. Research at Sulphur Mountain included measuring cosmic ray intensity variations and interactions, properties of extensive air showers, solar flares and the study of auroral emissions. In an era before long-term space probes were viable, the study of cosmic rays was our window to interplanetary space.

The Cosmic Ray Station was closed and the building was dismantled in 1981. The university initiated proceedings to officially recognize the Station’s valuable contributions to international science; a National Historic Site plaque was placed on Sulphur Mountain in 1984.