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Immortality for Sale

16 February 2000 5:00 pm
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Wondering what to get the stargazer who has everything? For just $3000, the University of Arizona will put your loved one's name on a mirror of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), now under construction on Mt. Graham, Arizona. The group hopes to raise $15 million to defray operating expenses for the $90 million telescope.

Typically when a mirror is cast, team members carve their names into the mold. That "raised quite a bit of interest" among members of the telescope's board who envisioned a fundraising opportunity, says Peter Strittmatter, director of the Steward Observatory in Tucson. To drum up interest, a board member footed the bill for an ad in the 15 February New York Times.

Don't expect to find your name scrawled across the mirror itself. Rather, you'll have to peer at the back. Both of the LBT's 8.4-meter-wide mirrors will be perforated in a honeycomb pattern to optimize strength and lightness. The bases of these 1662 honeycomb-shaped molds are available to bear the names of generous citizens. The result, say the builders: "Your name will be imprinted on the reverse side of the telescope mirror forever" (see http://medusa.as.arizona.edu/lbtwww/cores/).

And there's more--donors will also get an invitation to the 14 April casting, at which 18,000 kilograms of molten glass will be poured into a spinning mold and engulf the signatures. "This is an environmentally sound way of memorializing yourself--better than sending your ashes into orbit," notes Steve Maran, spokesperson for the American Astronomical Society. Act fast, though; the offer expires 1 March.

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