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.