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Vol.25, No. 02 Sept. 10, 1999

Biosphere 2 Adds a Telescope for ‘Universe Semester’

Columbia University's Biosphere 2 Center recently began construction of a new observatory that will house Biosphere 2's newest educational offering: a powerful telescope similar to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Slated for completion in October, the facility will feature a 24-inch reflecting telescope, a public viewing area and classrooms for a program called Universe Semester. The new telescope will give students the opportunity to study variable stars, supernovae and near-Earth asteroids.

"It will provide Universe Semester students with a world-class chance to study astronomy and provide a new resource for Tucsonians and visitors," said Chris Bannon, vice president for operations at Biosphere 2.

The observatory, located on a bluff high above the center, will incorporate several advanced environmental features in its design and construction.

The telescope features the same optical design as the Hubble Space Telescope, and plans call for the whole system to be computer-controlled and Internet-operable. Observers worldwide will be able to log on to the Biosphere 2 Web site to view southern Arizona's night skies.

The new observatory is key to the debut this fall of Universe Semester, an intensive undergraduate program in astronomy and astrophysics that focuses on night observations under the clear, desert sky, miles away from any significant light pollution from cities. The course offers undergraduate students a full semester of Columbia University credit.

Biosphere 2 is part of the Columbia Earth Institute, a consortium of more than a dozen research and education resources dedicated to studying the earth and the environment.

Check to learn more about astronomy at Biosphere 2.