ITHACA, N.Y., Nov. 25 -- Astronomy enthusiast Fred Young, a retired Racine, Wis. businessperson and a Cornell University alumnus, has donated $250, 000 for the study phase of a proposed infrared (IR) telescope that is being planned for high-altitude observation in the Chilean Andes.
"The project is still in the feasibility phase," said Riccardo Giovanelli, Cornell astronomy professor and chief investigator for the project. Site testing has been underway in several places in the South American Andes in an effort to pinpoint a location for the telescope. The site is proposed for somewhere in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, at between 17,000 and 18,000 feet.
Infrared telescopes capture infrared radiation, which is usually blocked by water vapor in the earth's atmosphere. Building the telescope at high altitude will situate it above most of the interfering water vapor.
"This is interesting for astronomy because much of the radiation that comes from distant sources in the universe comes to us in that part of the spectrum," Giovanelli said. "The best way to study the distant universe and the way stars or planets are born is to study the infrared spectrum."
The telescope is estimated to cost more than $100 million and would be built entirely with private funds from Cornell and other sources, although it is expected that operating the telescope will involve federal funds. Discussions are underway with several prospective partners to help with the project, according to the Cornell News Service.
Young said he will provide a further $250, 000 for the project if by next year substantial progress has been made toward establishing a firm partnership that will lead to the construction of the telescope within a decade.
For more information, visit: www.cornell.edu