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Discovery Park Campus resumes Mt. Graham International Observatory educational visits

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Discovery Park Campus resumes Mt. Graham International Observatory educational visits

By Lori Dugan

Thatcher, AZ—Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park Campus is pleased to announce that educational visits to the Mt. Graham International Observatory Telescopes have resumed for the remainder of the 2013 season. EAC Discovery Park Campus cooperates with the Coronado District of the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory in providing educational outreach visits of the three world-class research telescopes located at the Mt. Graham International Observatory on Mt. Graham’s “Emerald Peak.”

The MGIO visits are available on Saturdays through the end of October, depending on road and weather conditions. Reservations must be made in advance by contacting EAC’s Discovery Park Campus at (928) 428-6260.

Due to safety concerns, children must be at least eight years of age at the time of the visit. The $40 fee includes a boxed lunch, travel to and from the observatory, and visits through all three telescopes. The visit begins at the EAC Discovery Park Campus at 9 a.m. with a brief orientation on the history of the Mt. Graham International Observatory, information about safety and health concerns of the high altitude visit, and an explanation of the rules and conduct expectations while visiting the facilities within the Mt. Graham Red Squirrel Refugium.

“Visits are led by volunteer docents from Graham and Greenlee counties who have received special training on the history of Mt. Graham and the observatories,” says Discovery Park Campus director, Paul Anger. “The trip up the mountain is an easy-paced ascent through the five life zones found on Mt. Graham. The guides describe the military and recreational uses of Mt. Graham over the last 100 years, and point out the diversity of the plants and animals found on our ‘Sky Island.’”

Lunch is enjoyed at the newly renovated Columbine Ranger’s Station where the Coronado District of the U.S. Forest Service provides ample information and interesting displays in their visitor’s center. Observatory visitors will see the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT), utilizing the first mirror fabricated by the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab in Tucson.

The visit continues with the Submillimeter Telescope (SMT), which boasts a 10 meter (32.8 ft.) parabolic dish that is capable of capturing the highest frequencies of any radio telescope in the world.

The final visit is to the majestic Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). The LBT is the world’s most powerful telescope; its unique design of two massive 8.4 m (28 ft.) mirrors designed and constructed by the Steward Mirror Lab in Tucson provides over two million times the light gathering ability of the human eye, to allow researchers to see further and clearer into the depths of space than any other telescope in the world.

The visit concludes with a return to the EAC Discovery Park Campus, where visit participants can enjoy the “History of Astronomy” Gallery exhibits, experience a ride through the solar system on the “Polaris” shuttle simulator, and enjoy their own personal view of the stars by looking through the research grade 20” Tinsley Telescope in the Gov Aker Observatory.

For educational outreach visit information and reservations, contact Jackie Madsen at the EAC Discovery Park Campus at (928) 428-6260 or e-mail at