EAC Discovery Park hosts “Pre-Tours” MGIO Docent Dinner

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Hunter Windsor: The LBT lights up the night.

Contributed Article/Courtesy EAC

SAFFORD – Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park hosted a “Pre-Tour” dinner for the community volunteers (Docents) who guide the tours to the telescopes at the Mt. Graham International Observatory.  In attendance were the drivers and docents, as well as administrators and operators of the three world-leading telescopes.

The dinner was a “welcome back” event after an almost three-year hiatus of the tours due to the pandemic.  “The dinner was a special opportunity for the docents to learn about the new technology and programs that each of the telescopes has participated in during the break, and what is expected in the near future,” said Discovery Park director and MGIO tour program director, Paul Anger.

Contributed Photo: EAC Discovery Park Campus hosted a pre-tour dinner for the MGIO Docents. Pictured are, from left, Paul Gabor S.J.; Director, VATT; Robert Moulton, Lead Operator, SMT; Joseph Shields, Director, LBT; Buell Jannuzi, UA Head of Astronomy, Director, Steward Observatory, and Eric Buckley, Director, MGIO.

Special guest speakers included Eric Buckley, director of Mount Graham Intentional Observatory (MGIO), who reported the history of the facility and its important role in the astronomy world. 

Buell Jannuzi, head of the University of Arizona’s Department of Astronomy, and director of Steward Observatory, shared the history of the University’s Astronomy program and how it has expanded into several world-leading branches of space sciences, and he announced this year is the 100-year celebration of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory and commemorations that will be held this year. 

Joseph Shields, director of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), shared the history of the “LBT” and detailed the telescope’s current equipment and new instruments that will be added to increase its unique ability to explore the heavens, especially discovering new exo-planets (planets that orbit distant stars far outside of Earth’s own Milky Way Galaxy).  

Father Paul Gabor S.J., director of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) shared the Vatican’s long history of searching the heavens for more understanding. He also announced the 30-year anniversary of the VATT and shared information on the exciting astronomy activities and upcoming celebrations.

Jon Johnson File Video/Gila Herald: Here is a video of a tour of the MGIO from 2013.

Robert Moulton, the long-time lead telescope operator of the Submillimeter Radio Telescope (SMT), shared information about the upgrades to the radio telescope equipment and explained its distinctive role in participating in the recent Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) – a global array of radio telescopes working in unison to observe extraordinarily large objects, specifically the Black Hole in Messier 87, and the Sagittarius A at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. 

“The dinner celebrated the resuming of the guided tours of each of the world-leading telescopes and was a reminder of the amazing research and technological wonders of the world-leading telescopes on the peak of Mt. Graham,” continued Anger.

The educational visits to the telescopes at the Mt. Graham International Observatory are full for the 2023 season.  Reservations for 2024 dates will be available in November 2023 through EAC’s website at www.eac.edu.For more information on the Mt. Graham International Observatory tours, go to:  eac.edu/community/discovery-park/index.