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University of Montana to Purchase $1.25 Million Telescope to Search for Earth-Like Planets, NASA Approves Grant

exoplanet
Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Photo and Video

The University of Montana is getting some help to purchase a $1.25 million telescope.

“We just received what is called a NASA S-Corp grant,” said University of Montana Astrophysics Professor Nate McCrady. “What this is going to do for us is fund our purchase of a telescope as part of an array for a project called MINERVA. What we are doing with Minerva is joining forces with other universities to search for Earth-like planets.”

The university of Montana will work with Harvard, the California Institute of Technology and Pennsylvania State University to build project Minerva. The telescope operated by the University of Montana will be placed on a mountain somewhere in the northern hemisphere, but almost certainly not in Missoula.

“Western Montana, as everyone who lives here knows, suffers from inversion layers and all the clouds most of the year. We often have overcast skies for most year, so this isn’t a good place to put a telescope. One of the nice things about the internet age is, with video conferencing, email, and the ability to work online collaboratively, we can be anywhere. So really, the science goes to where the scientists are. ”

With the purchase, the UM will receive equipment to allow professors and students to “look” through the telescope despite the location. McCrady says it will likely be up and running by Summer 2014.

The money will come in the form of a matching grant, meaning both NASA and the University of Montana will spend about 750,000 dollars on the project.

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