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Seeing How Stars Were Born: Fabrication of Six-metre CCAT-prime Telescope Has Begun

The telescope is scheduled to begin operation in 2021, enabling new insights into the ‘cosmic dawn’ – the birth of stars after the Big Bang – and the formation of stars and galaxies / The University of Cologne is a partner in this large international astronomy consortium

Fabrication of the Cerro Chajnantor Atacama Telescope-prime (CCAT-p), a powerful telescope designed for the mapping of large areas of the nighttime sky, has begun, marking a major milestone in the project. The new telescope will be capable of mapping the sky at submillimeter and millimeter wavelengths. The CCAT Corporation is a partnership of Cornell University, the German CCAT Consortium, including the Universities of Cologne and Bonn as well as the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, and the Canadian Atacama Telescope Consortium (CATC), including several Canadian academic institutions.

‘With CCAT-prime, we have the unique opportunity to study the physics of star formation and to understand how it affects the evolution of the universe’, said Professor Jürgen Stutzki from the I. Physics Institute at the University of Cologne. Due to its novel optical design and its extremely high location, the telescope offers completely new opportunities for space exploration. ‘It also requires the development of novel detector technologies at the University of Cologne’, Stutzki continued.
The six-metre telescope will be installed near the top of Cerro Chajnantor mountain in Chile’s Atacama Desert. CCAT-p will provide insights into the ‘cosmic dawn’ – when the first stars were born after the Big Bang – as well as how stars and galaxies form in areas of the universe in our proximity. The telescope’s novel optical design, high-precision mirrors and high-altitude location will give scientists important new opportunities for astrophysics and cosmology research.

Vertex Antennentechnik GmbH of Duisburg, Germany, is responsible for fabricating the telescope’s components. The critical design review process took nearly two years, and some of the parts will take nearly as long to fabricate, such as the telescope’s two mirrors.

Once the fabrication is complete, the parts will be assembled and then tested. The telescope will then be broken down into sub-pieces and transported to Chile in 2020. Once there, it will be re-assembled and installed on a concrete base on Cerro Chajnantor.

‘This project has been in development for a long time, and it’s exciting to see it so close to becoming a reality’, said CCAT Observatory Board Chair Martha Haynes, Cornell’s Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy. ‘We should have the telescope on top of the mountain and collecting data in just over two years.’
That moment – what astronomers call ‘first light’ – is on schedule to take place in the middle of 2021.

CCAT-prime is thanks in large part to support from the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the generosity of the American donor Fred Young. ‘It is exciting and satisfying that we have reached the initial construction phase’, Young remarked.

Media Enquiries:
Professor Dr. Jürgen Stutzki
I. Physics Institute
+49 221 470-3494

Press and Communications Team:
Jürgen Rees
+49 221 470-3107

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