Global project to include Africa

Ashlee Clark

he stars may be shining a little brighter on a partnership between Western and the African country of Rwanda.

Astronomy professor Charles McGruder is reviewing the costs of a project that will bring the first telescope and robotic observatory to Rwanda.

The project will also help Western develop a worldwide network of telescopes.

Romain Murenzi, the Rwandan minister of education, science, technology and scientific research, wanted to bring more technology to Rwanda before his inauguration in July 2001, McGruder said.

McGruder said a mutual friend suggested that he could help develop the project.

Construction on the project may take about five years, McGruder said.

It is estimated that the telescope will cost about $5 million, McGruder said. The Rwandan government will fund the project.

The budget for the telescope project will be complete when McGruder visits Rwanda for a conference in November, he said.

Rwandan astronomers will come to Western to learn how to use the telescope, McGruder said.

“The expectation is that we at Western will work very intimately with Rwandans,” he said.

The project will also help Western progress toward the goal of establishing a worldwide network of 12 telescopes, enabling students to study the night skies 24 hours a day, McGruder said.

“It’s the perfect marriage,” he said. “They want a telescope and we want a network.”

Western currently has a telescope about 12 miles from campus. The university is also involved in a partnership to study at a telescope in Arizona, McGruder said.

Possible sites for future Western telescopes include Hawaii, China and southern Africa, McGruder said.

Building a telescope in Rwanda will help Western gain access and share data that once seemed only available to Ivy League universities, said Keith Andrew, head of the physics and astronomy department.

The program will also help STARBASE, a program at Western that allows undergraduate and high school students to learn about astronomy and collect data by using Western telescopes.

“I think it’s a very positive thing for the department and of course for our students because this will open up opportunities for student engagement,” said Michael Carini, a physics and astronomy professor.

Reach Ashlee Clark at [email protected].