November 23 2004
Astronomers’ sights set on December 1
The official opening of a new multi-million dollar telescope facility at the University of Canterbury’s Mt John
University Observatory will take place on Wednesday, 1 December.
The $7 million telescope, which has been paid for by the Japanese government, has been installed in a purpose-built
building funded by Tekapo company Earth and Sky Ltd, which will have access to the observatory for its tourism
The new telescope facility will be used for the Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) Project - an
international collaboration involving Nagoya University in Japan and the University of Canterbury, as well as Auckland,
Victoria and Massey universities.
It was developed to try and determine the origin of Dark Matter, one of astronomy's greatest puzzles.
Last year the project contributed to the discovery of an extrasolar planet using a telescope which has been in use at
the Mt John University Observatory since 1975.
The new, significantly stronger telescope will improve the likelihood of detecting faint light in space and will be used
solely for the MOA Project.
The building to house the telescope has been funded by local Tekapo company, Earth and Sky Ltd. The University and Earth
and Sky Ltd have entered into an agreement allowing for a tourist venture on Mt John in exchange for funding the cost of
the new building.
Festivities on opening day will begin at midday with a luncheon at the Godley Resort Hotel, Tekapo, before the official
opening ceremony from 2pm at the observatory.
There will be further speeches and an afternoon tea from 3:30pm in the Community Hall at Tekapo.
Official guests will include eminent astrophysicist Sir Ian Axford, who pioneered solar-terrestrial sciences and was New
Zealand Scientist of the Year in 1995.
The President of Nagoya University, Professor Shinichi Hirano and Japan’s New Zealand Ambassador, His Excellency Mr
Masaki Saito, will also be attending.