Astronomy at the university began in the 1960s within the Department of Physics and Astronomy. After more than 30 years of steady growth and progress, astronomy became an independent department in 2000. It collaborates with Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Hampshire College to form the Five College Astronomy Department.

The department is active in a broad range of observational and theoretical astrophysics. A variety of facilities are available to students, faculty, and staff, including several small telescopes for instructional purposes and two major research facilities. For research, the department operates a high-performance computer facility and is the U.S. partner in an international project with Mexico to build the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT). The computing facility is presently being expanded to contain over 1,500 processing cores, 3,000 gigabytes of RAM, a 10 gigabit per second interconnect rate, and over 100 terabytes of data storage. The LMT is a 50-meter-in-diameter telescope that operates at millimeter wavelengths and is located atop Sierra Negra, a 15,000-foot peak located in central Mexico. The LMT is the world's largest single-dish millimeter wavelength telescope.

Active Facilities
Large Millimeter Telescope

The Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) 

The LMT is a collaboration between the University of Massachusetts and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INAOE) in Mexico. The telescope is 50m (about 150 feet) in diameter and will be the largest and most sensitive single-aperture telescope operating at wavelengths of 0.85mm to 4mm when scientific operation begins following first light, its premier usage, later this year. Astronomers will use information collected from it to view of regions of space which are obscured by dust, increasing knowledge about star formation and the solar systems these stars could create.

Computational Data Center

Computational Facility 

This facility is backed by over 1,500 processing cores, 3,000 gigabytes of RAM, a 10 gigabit per second interconnect rate, and 100 terabytes of data storage, allowing state-of-the-art numerical techniques to solve otherwise intractable astronomical problems, including those with complex geometries, multiple scales, and physical interactions, such as the evolution of galaxies. The facility includes a computational classroom with many high-performance workstations, supporting efforts to integrate computational techniques into all aspects of graduate training.


Millimeter Wave Instrumentation Lab

The Millimeter Wave Instrumentation Lab specializes in the area of low-noise millimeter and sub-millimeter wave receiver systems for ground-based, airborne, and space-borne astronomy. The primary role is to support the 50m LMT/GTM in Mexico. Receiver work for the LMT is devoted to focal plane array receivers for the 3mm band, a Redshift Search Receiver (RSR) for the 3mm band, and ongoing work for a 1mm wavelength SIS-based single pixel receiver. We also are working on a novel phased focal-plane array receiver system for the 3mm band.


  • Redshift Search Receiver
  • Other future instrumentation for the LMT/GTM, including a 1mm commissioning receiver
  • CubeSat Project
  • Phased Focal Plane Array Receiver at 3mm wavelength


Research Faculty
Research Staff

Continuum Detector Laboratory

The Continuum Detector Laboratory (CDL) is a student-staffed research laboratory specializing in the development and construction of bolometer-based instruments for the detection of millimeter and sub-millimeter-wave radiation from astrophysical sources. The CDL is headed by Grant Wilson and is partially supported by the Five Colleges Radio Astronomy Observatory.

More than 99 percent of the photons in the universe can be accounted for by three sources of radiation that lie within the millimeter and sub-millimeter wavelength bands. The physical scales of the emitters of this radiation are astounding—ranging from comets to star-forming regions, to high-redshift galaxies, to clusters of galaxies, and on to the observable Universe. Here in the CDL, we build sensitive bolometer-based instruments to explore the Universe in the mm and sub-mm wavebands.


  • AzTEC - a 144 element bolometer camera operating at 1.1mm
  • SPEED- a 16 bolometer, 4 pixel, 4 frequency, array for demonstrating FSBs
  • LMT - the large millimeter telescope project
  • FSB- Frequency Selective Bolometers - a new bolometer technology