EAC Discovery Park finishes off MGIO Telescope Tours season with special events

Contributed article

THATCHER, AZ—Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park cooperates with the Coronado District of the U.S. Forest Service and the staff and administration of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, as well as other international organizations to provide educational outreach visits to the three, world-class, research telescopes located at the Mt. Graham International Observatory on Mt. Graham’s “Emerald Peak.”  The telescopes include the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT), the Submillimeter Radio Telescope (SMT), and the world’s largest and most powerful telescope; the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT).

Completed in 1993, The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope celebrated its 30th Anniversary in September, and to celebrate, EAC Discovery Park Docents transported over 50 VIP guests from all over the world for a very special tour.

Led by Rev. Christopher J. Corbally, S.J. Research Astronomer for the Vatican Observatory, and Past Director of the VATT, and Rev. Pavel Gabor, S.J., Vice Director for Tucson Vatican Observatory Research Group, and current Director of the VATT, the tour included the history of the telescopes, important milestones and achievements made, and information on the exciting future projects planned.  The tour culminated with a special blessing and “champaign toast” by Rev. Pavel Gabor and a return to EAC Discovery Park for refreshments and enjoying the facilities.

Then, in October,  EAC Discovery Park was honored to assist a group of 15 members of the “Association Française d’Astronomie” (French Astronomy Association) that traveled from Paris, France, to the telescopes at MGIO.  The group traveled to several major telescopes in Arizona, including the three record-holding telescopes at MGIO, and concluded their trip on the Utah border to observe the recent annular eclipse.  The French Astronomy Association is a well-known organization that disseminates astronomical information and supports local astronomy groups through special events and travel opportunities. 

Tours of the MGIO telescopes are available for the public during the summer months and include a lunch at the Columbine Ranger’s Station, detailed tours of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT), utilizing the first mirror fabricated by the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab in Tucson, the Submillimeter Telescope (SMT), boasting a 10 meter (32.8 ft.) parabolic dish that is capable of capturing the highest frequencies of any radio telescope in the world, and finally, a tour of the 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 were designed and constructed by the Mirror Lab in Tucson.

EAC Discovery Park tours of the Mt. Graham International Observatory will resume in May of 2024.  Information can be found at http://www.eac.edu. Tour dates must be scheduled and paid through the website and are limited to individuals age 12 years and older. Tour Prices are: $75 for adults and $60 for guests age 12-18 years, or  65+.  For full details and warnings, please go to: http://www.eac.edu and choose, “It’s Happening Here.” then scroll down and click on “Mt. Graham International Observatory Tours”.   

For more information on the EAC Discovery Park Campus, visit http://www.eac.edu/discoverypark, call (928) 428-6260, or email mailto:discoverypark@eac.edu.