Today, Steward Observatory astronomers are trying to answer some of humanity's greatest questions: "Where did we come from? Are we alone? What is the future of our Universe?
“Science fiction writers ask big questions in ways similar to astronomers — the difference is that science fiction writers will put their questions and answers into a movie, while astronomers and astrophysicists are going to look and see if they can find the answers to their questions in the Universe.” Buell T. Jannuzi, head of the Department of Astronomy and director of Steward Observatory said.
Our programs continue to grow, because our students have a unique opportunity to pursue their ideas at such an early stage of their careers. During these formative stages of development our students have access to all our facilities, observatories and computing resources to pursue their research. We provide students the chance to both succeed and fail, as they grow their skills, experience and the confidence necessary to take on the challenging problems of the future.
Without philanthropic support, we would not be able to provide so many opportunities to our students: "341 undergraduate majors, 80 graduate students, 40 post-doctoral researchers and fellows, and 70 dedicated faculty."
For more than a century, the students, staff and faculty of Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy have explored the universe together and shared what we learned with the world – and we are excited to continue our efforts into our second century.
Thank you for joining us for our Open House last Saturday!
Attendees were able to learn how our discoveries will transform our understanding of the universe in the next century.
Steward Observatory was officially established in 1918 through the foresight and perseverance of its first director, Andrew Ellicott Douglass. Douglass had come to Arizona in 1894 under the sponsorship of Percival Lowell. He was tasked to establish an astronomical observatory which became Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. After he joined the University of Arizona faculty in 1906, Douglass sought to build an observatory in southern Arizona. Steward Observatory was made possible by the generous donation was made in 1916 by Mrs. Lavinia Steward in memory of her late husband, Henry B. Steward. The Steward gift was used to build an observatory on an isolated tract of university land -- a former ostrich farm. Its construction, delayed by World War I, was finally dedicated in 1923. The 36" diameter Newtonian telescope was the first reflecting astronomical telescope to have been built using All-American made products.
At the dedication in 1923, Dr. Andrew Ellicott Douglass said the following:
“A dedication like this symbolizes the completion of a material part. But a dedication is dual, in being a part material and part spiritual. The material part is the building of brick and steel and glass which you see; the spiritual part is the living human force which enters this Observatory and makes it live. In this ceremony we dedicate ourselves to the perpetuation of this human force, which is nothing less than the soul residing in this physical structure. I want this Steward Observatory to live, and in living it must grow, and in growing it must produce results. Its use for classes is fine; its use for the public is fine; but it will not live without scientific results. That means we must have scientific men [and women] to keep it busy. From time to time, further equipment should be added in order to enlarge human knowledge and suitable publications must present to the world the knowledge acquired here.”
As we celebrate this 100-year milestone, we congratulate all the astronomers, past and present, who have risen to Douglass’s challenge to carry out important research. They have sustained the spirit of Steward Observatory, to be passed to future generations.
Did you know…
UArizona operates more than a dozen telescopes across the state, and helped build and operate observatories in Chile, Antarctica and in outer space. Steward Observatory’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab is fabricating the primary mirror segments for the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile, and UArizona is one of the founding partners in this future observatory. Also included under the Steward Observatory umbrella are the Arizona Radio Observatory, the Mount Graham International Observatory, the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter and the Sky School program.
Steward Observatory researchers were chosen by NASA to develop instruments for both the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, making UArizona the only institution to have led more than one instrument for NASA's Great Observatories.
UArizona Regents Professors and astronomers Marcia and George Rieke play integral roles in the James Webb Space Telescope, with Marcia serving as principal investigator for the telescope's and Near-Infrared Camera and George as science team lead for the Mid-Infrared Instrument.
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