2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Air Force Academy cuts ribbon on telescope site in Chile

Published: April 2, 2014, 1:52 pm, by Tom Roeder

PrintThe Air Force Academy cut the ribbon on its first telescope in the southern hemisphere Wednesday, part of a project to ring the globe with a network of automated eyes to scan the skies.

The Falcon Telescope Network, underwritten by the Defense Department,will eventually have 12 telescopes world wide. The new siteĀ  is at Chile’s Mamalluca Observatory and will be operated in concert with La Serena University in Vicuna, Chile.

Colleges that join the telescope network will have access to images they can use to teach astronomy. The Air Force will gain a tool to observe satellites in orbit through the academy’s Center for Space Situational Awareness.

Academy professor Francis Chun, director of the center, headed to Chile to unveil the new telscope and was flanked by American embassy and local officials.

The telescopes work together to build composite images of satellites using reflected sunlight in various stages of orbit.

“Satellites aren’t close enough to get a really good photo of them,” Chun said in a statement. “So you have to gather information about the sunlight reflected by them to try to figure out what they’re made of, what they’re doing in space. This network will allow us to gather the data and make those calculations more accurately.”

The first telescope in the network opened this year at Otero Junior College in La Junta.