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Massive telescope being built under UA stadium

When the Arizona Wildcats play a home football game in Tucson, something interesting is going on underneath them.

Scientists have been using a laboratory beneath the stadium to develop massive pieces of glass.

“It’s grown now, so actually the building juts out farther than the stands,” said Dennis Zaritsky, deputy director at Stewart Observatory. “Initially it was a well-protected, secure and empty space.”

Scientists have been using that laboratory to develop a 27.5-foot mirror. It’s one of seven mirrors that will form the heart of the giant 25-meter Magellan telescope.

“We’ve finished the first one,” said Zaritsky. “The second one has been cast, so the piece of glass exists, and we’re starting to polish it to its’ final shape. We’re getting ready to cast the third one.”

All seven will be developed at the university, and are expected to be finished by the end of the decade.

Once completed, the telescope will be located in the Andes mountains in Chile, in an area with clear, dark skies far away from any light pollution.

Zartisky said it will be used to explore the formation of stars, galaxies and black holes. These seven big mirrors will be an important part.

“The bigger the mirror, the more light you collect,” Zaritsky said. “You can see fainter things, you can see farther, you can do all kinds of things that you can’t do with the current types of telescope.”