November 30, 2004

Telescope Ready for Opening

The origin of dark matter in space might become clearer following the opening of a new multi-million-dollar telescope at Mt John tomorrow.

The $7 million telescope, paid for by the Japanese government, has been installed in a purpose-built building funded by a Tekapo company, Earth and Sky Ltd, which will have access to the observatory for its tourism operation.

The new telescope will be used for the microlensing observations in astrophysics (MOA) project -- an international collaboration involving the Nagoya University in Japan and the universities of Canterbury, Auckland, Victoria and Massey.

Last year the project contributed to the discovery of an extra solar planet using a telescope which has been in use at Mt John since 1975.

Developed to try to determine the origin of dark matter, one of astronomy's greatest puzzles, the new, significantly stronger telescope will improve the likelihood of detecting faint light in space.

Official guests will include eminent astrophysicist Sir Ian Axford, the president of Nagoya University, Professor Shinichi Hirano and Japanese ambassador Masaki Saito.