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UA telescope program 'laughingstock'

By Gina Siler
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 1, 1999

To the editor,

Here are some points you probably won't hear from the UA or Notre Dame astronomy departments. Notre Dame announced they will pay the University of Arizona $266,000 per night for six nights each year for telescope viewing on Mount Graham, notwithstanding repeated Apache protests of religious desecration. The National Optical Astronomy Observatories rejected Mount Graham years ago. They said it was clouded over half the time and that its visibility was flawed due to air turbulence. Five years after UA lobbied their exemptions from U.S. environmental, religious and cultural protection laws, UA studies likewise agreed that the mountain's bad topography and virgin forest presented a visibility nightmare. Notre Dame may end up paying a million dollars or more per suitable night.

UA claims they will devise "adaptive optics" to reduce the turbulence. No way! UA optical technology is the laughingstock of the industry. Their laboratory is plagued with problems and endless delays. UA is eleventh, or last place, in the world race to build eight-meter or larger telescopes. Seven are already operating, and three others are years ahead of UA's eleventh place fiasco.

Notre Dame seems at home riding rough shod over this sacred Apache place that was exempted from U.S. cultural and environmental laws. In 1992, the Vatican declared that this observatory might encounter extra-terrestrials to baptize, and furthermore, that Apache beliefs were "a religiosity...which must be suppressed with all of the force that we can muster." So much for Notre Dame's and UA's astronomical competence and religious sensitivity.

Gina Siler


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