UT Stargazers Want New Window on Universe
The University of Texas at Austin is one of eight schools and organizations helping to build and operate the Giant Magellan Telescope. Final destination for the telescope is an observatory in the Andes Mountains.
“You want to try to get up above as much atmosphere as possible and, unfortunately, Texas does not have very tall mountains in it,” said Assistant Director Anita Cochran of U.T.’s McDonald Observatory. “By going to Chile we are going up to taller mountains into an area that is actually quite a bit drier and just has much better atmosphere conditions.”
She says the 25-meter telescope is part of the next generation of ground-based star-gazing. But it’s not cheap. The estimated cost for the project is 560 million dollars. Together with Texas A&M, U.T. is willing to chip in up to 20 percent of the cost.
“In order to be able to be on forefront of science and being one of the best programs in the world, we have to have access to the biggest telescopes possible and so as one of the funding partners, should we manage to collect all the money and go forward with the project, we will have an in to one of the largest telescopes of the world,” Cochran added.
Construction on the telescope should begin by 2012, if funding for the project comes together. It should be fully operational around 2019.