By Linda Kor
The dark skies over northeastern Arizona are drawing the attention of a European-based science consortium that is considering a site near Meteor Crater for a $130 million telescope array.
Once complete, the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) will serve as an open observatory to the global astrophysics community. It will be the biggest gamma-ray observatory in the world with two arrays of telescopes, one each in the southern and northern hemispheres, allowing for coverage of the entire sky to help scientists study the origin of cosmic rays and investigate black holes, dark matter and other issues involving astronomy and astrophysics.
If the CTA is built in Arizona, the Lowell Observatory will likely manage it. According to Werner Hofmann, spokesperson for CTA, other sites under consideration are Yavapai Ranch, south of Seligman; San Pedro Martir, an observatory south of the border in Baja, Calif.; and the Canary Islands in Spain.
The CTA Consortium has a vast global involvement and is staffed by over 1,000 working members representing 27 different countries, including Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, England and the United States.
Once the site is selected and construction begins, the array of 40 telescopes could generate more than $100 million in construction spending. And once complete, the telescopes would have an annual operations budget of $10 million.
There will be no immediate decision regarding the site selection, as it is a multi-step process requiring input from multiple agencies involved with the project. As Hofmann explained, “We’ve just started the first steps of the formal process; a decision by the agencies is not expected before the end of this year.”
By Linda Kor