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SCI/TECH: Mount Graham Observatory Threatened by Wildfire

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posted on Jul, 4 2004 @ 11:02 PM
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The home of three of the world's most powerful telescopes is in danger of destruction by a wildfire that has already consumed over 4,000 acres of Arizona land. Firefighters are hopeful that the weather will cooperate with the efforts to contain the fire, but the danger is very real.
 


AZCentral
An observatory that is home to some of the world's most powerful telescopes remained threatened by a lighting-caused wildfire that grew to 4,090 acres.

"It's threatened, but I think it's defendable," said Duane Archuleta, an operations chief for the fire management team. "It's going to take some work of course."

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The “Gibson fire,” burning since June 22nd, and has forced the evacuation of dozens of homes. Efforts to combat and contain the blaze have failed. Three members of the museum staff and a firefighter have remained behind after the evacuation of the facility to do what they can to save it. With any luck fortune will favor them and this important observatory will avoid the tragedy that befell Australia's Mount Stromlo Observatory which was destroyed by fire last year.

The telescopes that are in danger include:

Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope
Run by Jesuit Priests in connection with the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, this 1.8-meter optical telescope searches the universe for star formations.

Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope
This telescope uses radio waves to see through dust clouds out of which scientists believe new stars form.

Large Binocular Telescope
Once it's fully operational in the fall of 2005, this telescope will be the most powerful optical telescope in the world. It can see faint and distant objects because of its two, giant 8.4-meter mirrors that gather in light. Scientists believe it will detect planets outside the solar system, something no other telescopes can do.

Related News Links
East Valley Tribune
Space Daily




posted on Jul, 6 2004 @ 11:48 AM
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Update 7/6/2004

New optimism that the observatory will be shaped has come from the efforts of firefighters.

AZ Central
Firefighters managed to widen a defensive ring around the Mount Graham International Observatory on Monday. Researchers from around the world use the observatory, which is an extension of the University of Arizona.

It encompasses eight buildings and 8˝ acres of pine forest on Mount Graham's 10,470-foot Emerald Peak. It is surrounded by a 200-foot-wide clearing and has a sprinkler system that officials said would be turned on if flames came within a quarter-mile.

Pruett Small, a fire official, has said that even if the building doesn't burn, the smoke and heat could damage the delicate instruments inside.

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Check in on the situation using this Webcam from the observatory, courtesy of the Vatican Observatory Research Group.

News links
Vatican Observatory Group



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