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April 28, 2009
Contact: Kristi Henderson, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, (785) 864-3663.

KU research telescope project kicks off at San Diego alumni event

LAWRENCE — An effort to develop a research telescope project that will propel astrophysics at the University of Kansas to new heights will be launched April 28 at an alumni reception in San Diego hosted by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The 1.25-meter research telescope, the focus of a partnership between KU and San Diego State University, is a key element in enhancing the undergraduate degree program in astronomy, while resurrecting the master’s degree in astrophysics, the only graduate program of its kind in Kansas. Upon completion, KU and San Diego State will share research time at the telescope at Mt. Laguna Observatory, 45 miles east of San Diego.

The project will allow remote access to a state-of-the-art astronomical research facility, dramatically expand training and research opportunities for students and strengthen the collaboration with astronomy at San Diego State, a program with strong similarities to KU’s, as it works to develop Mt. Laguna into one of the country’s premiere astronomical observing sites.

Alumni attending the San Diego alumni reception will learn more about the project from Joseph Steinmetz, dean of KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and KU professors Bruce Twarog and Steve Hawley. Hawley (a NASA astronaut) is part of an expansion of faculty that also serves to enhance astrophysics at KU.

“The significance of this project for KU astrophysics cannot be overstated,” said Twarog, professor of physics and astronomy. “For the first time in the 125-year history of the program students will have access to competitive research facilities. The ability to collect data with a California telescope from a room in Malott creates extraordinary opportunities for students to follow new research paths while developing professional skills.”

For the project to move forward, previous technology in the telescope needs to be replaced. The expected cost of the upgrade is about $1 million, covered entirely by San Diego State. To retain its 40 percent share of telescope time, KU must contribute $450,000 for new instrumentation and telescope operations. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has agreed to match, dollar-for-dollar, any donations made to this initiative, up to $225,000.

To support the telescope project, visit www.kuendowment.org/clas or contact Brandie Stormes at (785) 832-7465.

The San Diego alumni reception will be hosted by Ronald A. Wasinger, a KU alumnus who lives in San Diego and serves on the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advisory Board. Alumni who are interested in attending the April 28 reception in San Diego may contact Kristi Henderson at (785) 864-3663 or khenderson@ku.edu.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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