Older MGIO Journal Entries

Below are MGIO Journal entries from our more distant past!

June 2012  Venus Transit 2012 -- next transit in 2117!!


Above: Coach BB Andrews, Summer Youth Program Supervisor views Venus crossing the sun.  John Ratje, MGIO Director, in the background.



Transit photo by summer crew student Levi Miles.  Venus is the large black spot at the upper left edge of the sun.


February 2010  Winter 2010 brings lots of snow!...

At the Observatory, almost 20-feet of snowfall occured this winter.  It was a true winter wonderland. 


     A view of Mount Graham from the MGIO Base Camp -- Photo by John Ratje.


Snowblowing the road to the US Forest Service Columbine Work Center -- Photo by MGIO Crew.


     Snowblowing the road to the US Forest Service Columbine Work Center -- Photo by MGIO Crew.


August 2008  Thanks Summer Crew

Another successful summer program -- high school students from San Carlos and Bylas work together over the summer months to accomplish Observatory projects. This year marks our 12th consecutive year operating a summer youth program. Besides learning valuable work skills, the students attend an occupational training session each week. They learn about careers such as scientist, engineer, technician, and law enforcement. Learning the importance of staying in school and getting an education is also emphasized.



November 2007  Home of the Two-Shooter, the World's Most Advanced Telescope

With both 8.4 meter primary mirrors in place the Large Binocular Telescope is nearing completion. Instrumentation, such as spectrographs, polarimeters, red and blue sensitive cameras and optics to combined the image from the two primary mirrors are being constructed and installed.


December 2006  Activating the Replacement Microwave!

After an extended permitting process, the replacement microwave system was brought on line at the end of November 2006.  The MGIO site now enjoys increased bandwidth, safety and reliability in the telecommunications processes.  Check out the deep blue sky!  Astronomically speaking -- it is absolutely terrific...


August 2006  Summer 2006 Comes to a Close

MGIO hires 12 high school students to assist observatory maintenance crews in the summer. It is a great benefit to the observatory as well as the students.

Each week there is an educational session to acquaint the students with the broad spectrum of activities at the observatory.  In the picture below, the students are observing the sun using a specially filtered, 3.5" Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope. Other activities this past summer include sessions on law enforcement with the University of Arizona Police Department, endangered species biology, various engineering careers in the astronomy community, and the science of astronomy. We very much appreciate the summer crew - they are a great help with keeping the observatory operating efficiently.


     Above, Summer Crew 2006


July 2006  Aluminizing the LBT Mirror

Wow! A fresh coating of aluminum vacuum deposited on the glass mirror substrate -- the aluminum is about 900 Angstroms thick (a thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair).  Imagine that!  Initially, the reflectivity is about 91% of the incoming light.  Ready to collect and focus the light from the universe into a scientific instrument -- Exploring the Universe!


October 2005  First Mirror Achieves First Light!

This milestone marks the dawn of a new era in observing the Universe.  Upon completion (fall 2006) the LBT will peer deeper into space than ever before, and with ten times the clarity of the Hubble Space Telescope.  With unparalleled observational capability, astronomers will be able to view planets in distant solar systems, and detect and measure objects dating back to the beginning of time (14 billion years ago). 

Below, the exceptional image of a spiral galaxy on edge (NGC891) was obtained with one of the telescope’s two primary mirrors in place.  The LBT, a marvel of modern technology, uses two massive 8.4-meter (27.6 foot) diameter primary mirrors mounted side-by-side to produce a collecting area equivalent to an 11.8-meter (39 foot) circular aperture.  Furthermore, the interferometric combination of the light paths of the two primary mirrors will provide a resolution of a 22.8-meter telescope

The "first light" target was an edge-on spiral galaxy (type Sb) in the constellation of Andromeda known as NGC891. This galaxy lies at a distance of 24 million light years.  NGC891 is of particular interest because the galaxy-wide burst of star formation inferred from X-ray emission is stirring up the gas and dust in its disk, resulting in filaments of obscuring dust extending vertically for hundreds of light-years.

The images were captured through a state-of-the-art camera known as the Large Binocular Camera (LBC), which is mounted high above the primary mirror at the telescope’s prime focus. Designed by the Italian partners in the project, the LBC acts like a superb digital camera.  Its large array of CCD detectors is fed by a sophisticated six-lens optical system. Scientists can obtain very deep images over a large field of view, which is important since the processes of star formation and faint galaxy evolution can be observed with unmatched efficiency.



September 2005  Second Primary Mirror arrives at the LBT

The second and last 8.4 meter diameter primary mirror for the Large Binocular Telescope arrives at the site. After a journey of 2 1/2 days at a speed of 1 to 2 miles per hour the mirror arrives at the observatory.  Telescope completion scheduled for spring 2006!



July 2004  Mount Graham Burns

The Nuttall Fire Complex burned almost 30,000 acres in the Pinaleño Mountains over a period of 3 weeks. The fire was stifled in its tracks as it approached MGIO.

The second major wildfire in 8 years burned within 1/2 mile of the Observatory Complex. Firefighters from the Southwest Area Incident Management Team worked diligently to protect the facility using an indirect fire fighting approach -- using fire to stop fire. Their back burn operation (image below) was seen silhouetting the Large Binocular Telescope on the evening of July 6, 2004.  The back burn was ignited within 200 feet of the Utility Building on the north side of the site and within 600 feet of the Large Binocular Telescope on the east side of the site.

Resources used during the fire:
      940 Firefighters (peak)
      11 Helicopters &  4 Aerial Tankers
      32 Engines, 5 Bulldozers

     Image courtesy of Cpl. Wade Boltinghouse, UA Police Department



November 2003  Heart of the LBT Arrives on the Mountain

By Lori Stiles
November 03, 2003

The world’s most powerful optical telescope, which will allow astronomers to see planets around nearby stars in our galaxy, took a giant step closer to completion late last week when the first of its huge 27-foot-diameter mirrors inched up a tortuous mountain road to its new home at Arizona’s Mount Graham International Observatory.

The 18-ton borosilicate "honeycomb" mirror was escorted up the mountain by a team of scientists, engineers, police, and heavy-haul specialists to the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) facility. The mirror and its all-steel transport box, which together weighed 55 tons, were transported over 122 miles of Interstate and state highway, then up the narrow hairpin turns of the 29-mile Swift Trail to the Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO) high above Safford, Ariz.

     Image above: Loading mirror at the Base Camp on the special Goldhofer trailer for the journey up the mountain.


August 2003  Wildfire Season -- A Tree Trimming Exercise

Due to the extended drought and ongoing insect infestation in the spruce fir forest surrounding the observatory, virtually 85% of the trees in the highest elevations in the Pinaleño Mountains have died. Because the dead trees present hazards to people and equipment near the observatory perimeter, those trees are being removed as authorized by the USFS. It is a hard but necessary job hiking 50 pound sections of trees out of the forest to haul down the mountain. We appreciate our summer labor crew from the town of Bylas and from Graham County, who without their help this would not have been possible. A hearty THANKS to our high school summer crew!


February 2003  Sunrise on Mount Graham

An inspiring event always, but on this morning it is extra special... These photos remind me of Albert Einstein's quote:

"In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity."


Above images and text courtesy of John Ratje


October 2002  UVa and UM join the LBT Project

On October 4, 2002, The University of Virginia announced that it has joined the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) project, a major new telescope being constructed in Arizona. It will be the most powerful in the world when completed in 2005.

And on October 11, 2002, The University of Minnesota Board of Regents voted to join the research interests on Mt. Graham.

The international partnership of universities and research institutes in the LBT Research Consortium includes the University of Arizona, which leads the consortium; Ohio State University; the University of Notre Dame; and the Research Corp., plus partners in Italy and Germany.


October 2002  Parts and Pieces of the LBT arrive...and arrive...and arrive...

The LBT Telescope structure was designed and built in Italy, shipped ocean freight to Houston, Texas and trucked overland to the MGIO Base Camp.  The logistics are considerable -- just think about moving  a 60 ton, 28 foot wide load across the country.  And this load (in the photo below) is only 24 feet wide -- just one of the many truck loads of parts and pieces...  Yes, it is wider than the road -- that's both lanes of traffic!


December 2001  Power Line Completed

After a lengthy design period (4 years) and a relatively brief construction period (8 months), the commercial power line to the Observatory was turned on for the first time on November 13, 2001.  The on-site diesel generators were turned off on December 7, 2001.  We have commercial power!


August 2001  The Summer Monsoon has been good!

We have a large number of wildflowers popping up all over the mountain.  While the rain was extensive at times and made construction difficult, the moisture was welcome.


August 2001  Power Line Progress

The construction of the 23 mile long, underground, 25 kV power line is progressing well.  The very difficult portion -- through the steep corridor areas -- have been completed.


April 2001  The Poppy fields are beautiful...and abundant this year!

The early rain and snow in November 2000 and the fairly even distribution of moisture through the winter has provided us a great poppy and wildflower season. The desert in southern Arizona is in bloom...


April 2001  Construction of Mount Graham Power Line Underway:

Will Replace Diesel Generators

April 4, 2001

Tucson, AZ – The University of Arizona announced today that construction has begun on a power line that will provide electricity to the Mount Graham International Observatory. The work is being carried out by the Granite Construction Company of Arizona.

Last week, construction crews undertook the necessary preparatory activities and excavation began on Monday, April 2nd, near Bonita, Arizona, the point at which the power line ties into the main regional electrical distribution system.

This week, crews will also begin preliminary construction activities on the Coronado Forest with power line trenching scheduled to take place in mid-April.

The entire 23-mile power line will be buried underground; nearly 90 percent (20 miles) of it will be along existing roads. The University expects to complete the project by the fall of 2002 at a cost of over $10 million.

Congress designated the power line corridor in 1984 under the Arizona Wilderness Act. The University of Arizona has worked closely with the U.S. Forest Service on the specifications of the project, in accordance with its Observatory use permit.

The completion of the power line will allow the use of diesel generators as a primary source of electricity to be discontinued. This will enable the Observatory to mitigate exhaust emissions and noise created by diesel engine operations, while at the same time lowering the facility’s energy costs.


November 2000  MGIO Utility Area Renovation

 In November, 2000, the Cozad heavy equipment trailer was used to move the Drott 30 ton hydraulic crane to the MGIO site. Relocating the diesel fuel tank provided room for the installation of a large chiller unit.  "Taking the heat" out of the Large Binocular Telescope enclosure will help insure better local "seeing" conditions for the telescope once it is installed inside the enclosure. Better images for the best astronomy...