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At U of T, on the north side of Russell Street just east of Spadina Circle, there is a strange new building with pulleys on the front and an extremely large door

At U of T, on the north side of Russell Street just east of Spadina Circle, there is a strange new building with pulleys on the front and an extremely large door. What goes on in there?—Chuck Wahlberg, Annex

That’s the High Bay Building, home to a team of astronomers with an ingenious scheme for studying early star formation in ancient, distant galaxies. To avoid atmospheric interference with their seven-metre-tall microwave telescope, they are planning to send it via helium balloon some 37 kilometres into the stratosphere. (As tall as the Eiffel Tower, the balloon is nonetheless cheaper and more versatile than a satellite.) In June, the telescope will lift off from Sweden, collecting its data as it drifts over the Atlantic, arriving back in Canada a week later. It’s a huge project, with the Canadian Space Agency, NASA and several major universities pitching in. But the scientists aren’t above a little whimsy: their Russell Street hangar’s odd façade was inspired by the improbable flying machine that’s currently being born within.

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