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Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation pledges $1.5 million to relocate six telescopes

PASADENA-The California Institute of Technology is pleased to announce a pledge of $1.5 million from the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation to relocate the six 10-meter telescopes of the Owens Valley millimeter-wave array to a higher elevation site near the current Owens Valley Radio Observatory Facility, where the deleterious effect of the atmosphere will be dramatically reduced.

"The Norris Foundation's continued support will allow us to vastly improve our capabilities," said Anneila Sargent, director of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory, and professor of astronomy at Caltech. "We are working to obtain the necessary environmental approvals from the National Forest Service and look forward to moving to the new site over the next few years."

The move will also set the stage for a collaboration with the Berkeley-Illinois-Maryland-Association (BIMA), a consortium of the University of California at Berkeley and the Universities of Illinois and Maryland, which operates the only other mm-wave array in the United States. Nine 6-meter BIMA telescopes, currently located in northern California, would be moved to the new site and combined with the six Owens Valley array telescopes to form a unified, 15-telescope array.

Enhanced array performance will allow researchers to "see" almost to the edge of the universe, a few billion years after the Big Bang, enabling them to study the origins not just of planetary systems but also of galaxies in the early universe. These millimeter-wave observations of dust and gas will be critical complements to the optical and near-infrared images from Keck, and to those expected from the suite of upcoming NASA "Origins" missions.

In 1994 the Norris Foundation awarded nearly $1.5 million for construction of the Norris Planetary Origins Telescope at Owens Valley, bringing the array to a total of six 10-meter radio telescopes. The Owens Valley array yields very sharp radio images by electronically combining signals received by each dish to create an effective diameter of 200 meters. With the addition of the Norris telescope, sharper images of distant galaxies, colliding nearby galaxies, stars, and planetary systems in the process of forming, and even comets are being obtained much more rapidly.

The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation was established in 1963 by the late Kenneth T. Norris, the founder of Norris Industries, and his late wife, Eileen L. Norris. Since its inception, the foundation has extended support to a wide variety of cultural, medical, civic, and educational projects in California. Today the Norris Foundation continues to allocate a large portion of its resources to medicine and education but encompasses a broader agenda-one that also includes community and youth programs, science, and the arts.

Written by Sue McHugh

Caltech Media Relations