A team of University of Massachusetts Amherst astronomers has received a received a 3-year, $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to provide support for the Large Millimeter Telescope in Mexico, while providing first-time access to it for astronomers from any U.S. institution.
The team is led by Professor Peter Schloerb, a UMass professor and director of the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory.
The LMT is a 50-meter diameter radio telescope built through a collaboration of UMass Amherst and Mexico. Located atop a 15,000-foot peak in the state of Puebla, it is the largest telescope of its type in the world.
Schloerb said its construction was the largest science project in Mexican history. Construction began in 1998, and the first observations were taken in 2011.
“The LMT is a unique facility that has had an important impact on astronomical research, including, most recently, as a key station in the network that produced the first-ever image of a black hole. The U.S. astronomy community identified access to telescopes like the LMT as a priority in the 2010 Decadal Survey of Astronomy. UMass Amherst now leads the effort to provide this to all U.S. astronomers,” Schloerb said.
He adds, “This is an exciting time for the LMT. We have a suite of new instruments coming online, which will further enhance the telescope’s ability to deliver strong scientific results.
“Enabling the U.S. community to use the telescope has always been an important goal for our group. We’re very glad to be in a leadership role on this with our partners in this new project.”
Partners include the University of Maryland and science centers in Mexico.
The telescope is closed during the pandemic, but will re-open once the COVID-19 situation improves in Mexico.
U.S. astronomers will be able to submit proposals for access to 15 percent of the LMT observing time, Schloerb said.
“They will also benefit from having LMT’s trained staff available to conduct the observations and help users turn their raw telescope data into useful scientific products,” he said.