EA to offer guide and driver training for MGIO telescope tours

By Lori Dugan

THATCHER, AZ— Eastern Arizona College’s (EA) Discovery Park is gearing up for its annual MGIO Guide and Driver Training, AST-129, section #1443, scheduled for Saturday, May 4, 2024. This 0.5 credit class, offered annually, is designed to train volunteers (docents) to lead educational tours at the Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO).

The tuition-free class is supported through funding from Discovery Park and MGIO, enabling participants to gain comprehensive training without cost. Volunteers will guide visitors through MGIO’s array of advanced astronomical telescopes, providing insights into both the instruments and their scientific contributions.

Paul Anger, Director of EA Discovery Park, expressed enthusiasm for the ongoing program. “Each year, this training empowers a new cohort of volunteers with the knowledge and skills necessary to share the scientific marvels of MGIO with the world. It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone fascinated by astronomy to get directly involved,” Anger noted.

John Ratje, director emeritus of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) and course instructor, will provide both theoretical and practical training. The class includes a session at EAC Discovery Park followed by a field trip to the observatory, allowing participants to experience the tour paths and procedures firsthand.

The training covers the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), the world’s largest and most powerful telescope; the Submillimeter Radio Telescope (SMT), part of the global Event Horizon Telescope network; and the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT), known for having the world’s most perfect optical mirror.

The class is open to 20 students who are passionate about astronomy and eager to share their enthusiasm with international visitors. Suitable candidates must be in good health, capable of standing for extended periods, climbing stairs, and working at high altitudes (10,500 feet).

Upon completion, volunteers are expected to serve as guides or drivers for at least three scheduled MGIO Educational Outreach Tours between May and October of this year.

MGIO Educational Outreach Visits will resume in May 2024 and continue through October, depending on weather and road conditions. For more information or to register, visit www.eac.edu, click on “get tickets,” and navigate to “Mt. Graham International Observatory Tours.”

Interested individuals can also contact Monica Clarine at monica.clarine@eac.edu for registration details.