UMass Amherst and Mexico Select Designer for Large Millimeter Wave Telescope

AMHERST, Mass. - MAN Technologie AG, Munich, Germany, has won a competitive bid to do the critical design work for a large millimeter wave telescope (LMT) to be built on Cerro LaNegra mountain in central Mexico, a joint project of the University of Massachusetts and Mexico. When finished, it will be the world’s largest, most sensitive radio telescope.

[A radio telescope like the LMT brings into sharp focus faint radio signals which began their journey earthward when the first stars in the universe were created, thus enabling researchers to better study the origin of galaxies, stars, planets, and life itself.]

The $4.5 million contract with MAN was awarded by Mexico after bids were judged by an international panel of experts, according to vice chancellor for research Frederick W. Byron Jr. Byron said the MAN bid was not only the lowest bid, but had been judged as the best value by the panel. Bids were solicited in August by the Mexican National Institute for Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics, a degree-granting research institution located in Tonantzintla, Mexico.

Byron said that MAN will produce detailed analyses and drawings for the projected 150-foot diameter radio telescope, and that the design phase is expected to take about a year, after which other competitive bids will be sought for the actual construction work.

"This is the final design phase of the project," Byron said. "Next will come the building and fabrication stage and then the installation and testing."

The $50-$60 million project is the largest scientific project ever undertaken by the University or by the government of Mexico. Approximately half of the funding is expected to come from Mexico; the other half is to come from the U.S. When the project is finished, astronomers from around the country will be able to use the telescope from UMass’s Amherst campus through remote observing via computer links.

Byron said he hopes the telescope will be built before the end of 2000, but that post-construction testing could take two or three years beyond that.