For Immediate Release
March 7, 2005
Public Information Office
310 Owen Hall, Campus PO 1820
Asheville, NC 28804-8507
828/251-6526 - FAX: 828/251-6677
Congressman Charles Taylor and UNC Asheville Announce
Congressman Taylor (right) presents check to
Chancellor Jim Mullen (left) and PARI President Don Cline
Congressman Charles Taylor and UNC Asheville Chancellor Jim Mullen
announced on Monday, March 7, a $1 million appropriation that will go to
the University of North Carolina’s Pisgah Astronomical Research and
Science Education Center (PARSEC). The funds will be used by PARSEC to
improve radio and optical astronomy equipment at the
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
(PARI) near Rosman, N.C.
"This is a wonderful project for Western North Carolina,” Taylor said. “Students from UNC Asheville and the entire University of North Carolina system will learn through the research under way here for years to come. It is also a wonderful opportunity for our region's teachers and students. I am proud that I was able to secure the funding that will begin to take this project to the next level."
PARSEC, which is headquartered at UNC Asheville, and PARI established a formal collaboration in October 2003. Through PARSEC, undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members from the 16 University of North Carolina campuses have opportunities for hands-on radio astronomy research at PARI that are not available anywhere else in the nation.
PARI was privately established as a radio astronomy institute in 1998. The facility, once a NASA tracking station and later a listening post during the Cold War, has two 26-meter (85-foot) radio telescopes, and several small radio and optical telescopes.
PARSEC will use much of the $1 million to make significant improvements to the instrumentation for PARI’s 26-meter radio telescopes.
“I appreciate the Congressman’s continuing efforts to support excellence
in the teaching of science. The improvements will allow PARSEC to meet
the rapidly advancing requirements of world-class research,” said
Mullen. “This offers a tremendous advantage to our undergraduate and
graduate students. Research time at national radio astronomy labs is in
high demand. Few graduate students and virtually no undergraduate
students in the nation ever have a chance to learn hands-on about radio
astronomy, yet it is through this experience that students are better
able to conceive new research ideas. Student access to this unique
learning environment addresses a major national need in science
education and gives North Carolina students a competitive advantage as
they pursue their careers.”
Younger students will benefit as well. Groups of K-12 students often visit PARI, participate in PARI’s outreach programs in the schools and even conduct remote observing with PARI telescopes from their classrooms, Mullen noted.
The improvements at PARI are especially rewarding to J. Donald Cline, PARI founder and president.
“PARI’s vision is to become a world-class research and science education facility, and to make this facility available to the UNC system and the communities in Western North Carolina. We’ve come a long way toward realizing that goal, and the support announced today is another giant step forward. As we enhance this facility and connect into the broadband Internet highway, it’s easy to foresee a significant expansion in science and hands-on education originating in Western North Carolina,” said Cline. “On behalf of PARI, I would like to express our sincere thanks to Congressman Taylor, the administration of UNC Asheville and all the others within the University of North Carolina system whose diligence and dedication have helped make this day possible.”
The improvements to PARI’s telescopes are an exciting prospect for UNC Asheville astrophysicist Brian Dennison and his students, who conduct research at PARI. “The enhancements to PARI’s radio telescopes, for example, will extend their reliability and efficiency for dedicated long-term observations of distant objects such as quasars,” Dennison said. “These improvements will also give scientists and student researchers the immediate flexibility to respond to new leads, such as the intriguing discovery, just announced in the journal Nature, of a new source of radio waves found at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Few other radio astronomy labs can accommodate that flexibility.”
The unusual nature of PARI has sparked interest far beyond the state. “Researchers from institutions outside of North Carolina, and as far away as Australia, are now interested in participating in future projects to be based at PARI and organized by PARSEC,” Dennison noted.
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