New telescope project wins U approval
After months of vigorous public debate, University regents voted
7-2 to approve the purchase of viewing time on the most powerful
telescope on Earth, now under construction on Mount Graham, near
Safford, Arizona. The decision drew protests from American Indian
groups, who oppose the project because traditional Apaches in Arizona
consider the mountain sacred.
The October 11 vote followed a 10-month assessment of the issues
surrounding the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) project, including
consultation with American Indians in Minnesota and Arizona. The
University's involvement was contingent upon receiving a written
commitment from the project's principal partner, the University
of Arizona, to develop a fair and neutral process for resolving
disputes over the Apaches' access to the mountain. The project would
have moved forward regardless of the University's involvement.
Among other moves, participating institutions will create a cultural
advisory committee to guide ongoing activities on the mountain.
President Robert Bruininks, who as interim president recommended
the University's participation, says the LBT represents a unique
opportunity for University researchers, who have sought viewing
time on a large telescope for two decades.
Scheduled to be operational in 2004, the telescope is being built
on federal lands on Mount Graham, home to two existing telescopes.
Although the 16-story facility is visible from below, the entire
site comprises 8.6 acres of the 200,000-acre mountain and is not
located on the mountain's topmost peak. The site was selected more
than a decade ago on the basis of astronomical considerations. No
American Indian lands are being used for the project.
Data collected by the telescope will be used to research the origins
of the universe, dark matter, quasars, black holes, and star formation.
University astronomers will bring expertise in infrared instrumentation
to the project.
The University's participation in the project is supported by a
$5 million commitment from Hubbard Broadcasting.