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RE: Sierra La Negra telescope
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The University of Massachusetts astronomy department is about to go on a journey back in time, exploring galaxies over seven billion years older than the Sun.
The department, in cooperation with Mexicos Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica, is building a Large Millimetre Telescope (LMT) atop the Sierra Negra volcano located between Vera Cruz and Puebla in Mexico in an effort to explore some of the earliest formed galaxies in space.

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Gran Telescopio Milimétrico
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Mexico is ready to reach for the stars with a massive new $124 million telescope that will begin operating this year.
The Large Millimetre Telescope, known by the Spanish initials GTM, "will allow us to investigate very profound matters such as the origin of the universe," the director-general of Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica, Jose Guichard Romero, said in a statement.

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The Large Millimeter Telescope
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On this windswept peak where visitors gasp in the thin air, Mexico is building the world's largest telescope of its kind, an instrument primed to be powerful enough for scientists to look back at the dawn of the universe.
The Large Millimeter Telescope, located on the summit of the dormant volcano Sierra Negra, is considered Mexico's most ambitious scientific project ever. It is also currently the biggest scientific collaboration between the United States and any Latin American country.
Nine years after construction began, the telescope is now some nine months away from its first attempts at capturing images from faint millimeter waves, a type of radio wave. Scientists calculate these have been travelling through space since shortly after the Big Bang, some 13.4 billion years ago.

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RE: Sierra La Negra telescope
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La negra
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Latitude: +18º 59' 06" N; Longitude: 97º 18' 53" W

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Scientists turned on a massive telescope built on one of Mexico’s tallest mountains Wednesday, hoping to get a glimpse of the beginning of the universe.

Image
“from the bottom of the hill it only looks this big”

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Latitude: +18º 59' 06" N; Longitude: 97º 18' 53" W

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Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT)
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Mexican President Vicente Fox has inaugurated a giant telescope that could help scientists uncover clues about the creation of the universe.
The telescope, which resembles a gigantic satellite dish, sits high in the mountains of central Puebla state.

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Large Millimetre Telescope (LMT)
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Perched at 4 600m on a cold, spent volcano, the Large Millimetre Telescope (LMT) will use radio waves to look into the dawn of the universe when it begins a two-year testing period on Wednesday.
At 2 000 tons and $115-million, its 50m dish - the world's largest - is the result of a joint effort of Mexico's National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (INAOE) and the US University of Massachusetts.

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165-foot millimetre radio antenna is nearing completion.
The telescope will allow astronomers to look back 13 billion years and uncover secrets about the creation of the universe.


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Credit Large Millimeter Telescope Project

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A 17-story monster of a telescope is being assembled atop of the 15,000-foot La Negra dormant volcano.
It will probe the origins of the universe with an antenna dish the size of a baseball infield.

It looks like a space-age windmill, with two U-shaped steel arms to hold up a giant satellite dish. It will be the largest millimetre-wave radio telescope in the world — if it's ever completed.
Described by President Vicente Fox as "the most important science project in Mexican history," it's a rare cooperative effort by U.S. and Latin American scientists and an advance in the use of radio astronomy.


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The Large Millimetre Telescope is a bi-national project sponsored by both U.S. and Mexican governments and institutions to build the largest single-dish millimetre-wavelength radio telescope on top of the mountain Cerro La Negra near Puebla in Mexico.

The distance that scientists would see is phenomenal, basically to the edges of the universe, some 13 billion light years away. The telescope would detect radio waves that, like light, move at about 186,000 miles per second and have been travelling for 13 billion years.
By comparison, it takes about eight minutes for light to travel from the sun to the earth.

"It is just amazing, the immensity of time" - Peter Schloerb of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which is a partner in the project with Mexico's National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics.

Equally startling are some of the contrasts the modern marvel brings to rural central Mexico.
While the telescope will look to the beginnings of time, many of its nearby residents have never travelled from the region around Sierra Negra, or "La Negra," as locals refer to the mountain.
Some communities only recently have received paved roads and electricity. While the telescope's findings one day may bend the minds of astronomy's best and brightest, its construction workers have elementary-school educations.


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On Saturday November 19 2005, the antenna reflector was successfully lifted into position.

Whether the 18,200 tons of steel and concrete — and counting — that is being put together on La Negra become a radio telescope or the largest monument to broken scientific dreams could depend on whether the U.S. or Mexican governments finds about $25 million to finish it.
The exact figure is being determined, but contractors have agreed to keep working.
The Mexico-Massachusetts partnership was created in the early 1990s when neither research group could afford to build a telescope on its own. Mexico had higher mountains and a more favourable climate than Massachusetts and agreed to finance more of the construction, so the deal was made.

Now U.S. and Mexican scientists said they are scrambling for benefactors because the telescope is over budget, behind schedule and out of money.
About $100 million already has been spent, with 60 percent of that coming from the Mexican government and the rest from the U.S. government and state of Massachusetts.
The telescope has been under construction since 1997, and astronomers said they have no plans to give up.

"I am in love with this creature" Mexican astronomer Emmanuel Méndez Palma said as he walked beneath the tower-like structure.

He made no apologies for the higher costs but said there have been many twists and turns for the telescope, including changes in presidents, governors, political winds and purse strings.

"This project is on the frontier of technology. You can never plan exactly how long or how much. Any project this size has delays" - Emmanuel Méndez Palma.

President Fox recently said he guarantees the money will be found to finish it and that it would be inaugurated in 2006, his last year in office.

"We are very aware that (scientific advancement) is one of the nation's largest priorities. We are very aware that a country only develops when it has its own sources of science and technology development" - President Vicente Fox.

Schloerb welcomed the news that Fox said he'd find the money, but he noted it remains to be seen how much the president will allocate and when.

"I am pretty confident that at the end of the day, the governments are going to say, let's figure out how to get this done" - Peter Schloerb .

The U.S. Embassy declined comment, but U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza asked in an April 12 letter to White House science adviser John Marburger for recommendations on possible federal funding to help complete the project.
Marburger, in turn, suggested a proposal be submitted to the National Science Foundation's astronomy program, but that would require specifics on how much it would cost and when it would be completed — both elements of a study still under way.

"Dr. Marburger is aware that the project was out of funding, but we understand that the Mexican government may have been able to find funding to complete the initial stages of the telescope to make it operational. And we applaud the steps Mexico has taken" - Donald Tighe of the White House office of Science and Technology Policy.

A U.S. official with direct knowledge of the project, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it is doubtful Washington will come up with more money for it.

"Now, as far as Congress is concerned, they've done their bit. Money for another telescope is not on the agenda right now for (the U.S. government)" - U.S. official.

Laura Kraft, public information officer for the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, said a giant telescope's value is incalculable. She cited spin-off technology such as satellite global positioning systems and enhanced surgery procedures, as well as pure science.

"There are an infinite number of questions out there that reach into our imagination. Some people, in a spiritual sense, want to know their place in the universe" - Laura Kraft.

As for Méndez, the Mexican astronomer, he dreams of what the project could mean for his nation.

"We are playing in the major leagues with this instrument. We will really be on the frontier of knowledge and will be associated with the Americans, the French, whomever" - Emmanuel Méndez Palma.

Méndez has had to keep peace with local residents, who he said have blocked the road at least 10 times over the years to demand jobs, electricity, pavement and other benefits from the project.
He said he was even confronted by an armed man who used a downed tree to block the roadway and then made what would appear to be an offer that couldn't be refused — that local trucks be used to make deliveries to the construction site, 45 minutes up a winding, sometimes treacherous road.
Other challenges include an altitude so high it impairs people's memory, judgment and performance.
At 15,000 feet, it can be difficult for workers to think, speak or just avoid getting sick due to thin air and bone-chilling temperatures. Next door is Mexico's highest mountain, the snow-covered Pico de Orizaba.

"Because of the lack of oxygen, you can't work with the same rhythm" - Gerardo Rivera Rodríguez, a construction foreman, who said many workers don't last long.

On a recent morning, welders and painters scrambled around the structure as they made final preparations before an attempt to attach the giant 160-foot dish antenna to the telescope tower.
Workers said they felt they should be earning more than $150 or so a week but were proud of bolstering Mexico's prestige and tolerating an environment others could not. Without these jobs, many would be relegated to seasonal agricultural work for much lower pay, or not working at all.

"I've heard this is the project of the millennium" - Alonzo Páez, construction worker, who has two children and lives in a village at the base of Sierra Negra.

Juan Ahumada González, a crane operator brought in from the Texas-Mexico border state of Tamaulipas, said the telescope is more special than any building, bridge or roadway he'd ever helped complete.

"This is a first-of-its-kind project for Mexico. You feel pride" - Juan Ahumada González.

Adapted from Source


Google Earth file
Latitude: 18°59´. Longitude: 97°18´W. 4600m above sea level

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