CCAT Board Approves Construction of CCAT Prime

The CCAT Board has just approved construction of CCAT Prime, a new submillimeter telescope to be built in Chile, adjacent to ALMA.  For almost a decade, Associated Universities Inc. has been a member of the CCAT collaboration, serving as the CCAT legal representative in Chile and participating on the CCAT Board.   AUI secured the land for CCAT, a high-altitude (5600m) site above the ALMA plateau near the summit of Cerro Chajnantor, probably the best site anywhere for submillimeter observations.  Over the years, AUI has also provided logistical and business support for the development of the site, conducted the preliminary studies dealing with transportation, safety, high altitude medicine, and construction planning.

CCAT Prime represents a descoping of the originally conceived CCAT into a smaller, university-based survey telescope.  Led by Cornell, CCAT Prime is an international collaboration, also including Canadian, German and Chilean universities.  Following the descoping, AUI has decided it is no longer necessary for it to remain a formal member of the collaboration, and it is working with the Chilean government, CONICYT and the local astronomy community to secure the transfer of the site to the new legal managing organization in Chile, the University of Cologne.

The new telescope, the first of a new generation of compact, extreme wide-field sub-mm telescopes, will accomplish many of the key objectives of the larger original project, and will at the same time open a more powerful window into studies of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), multiplying by an order of magnitude the efficiency of CMB surveys including those devoted to measuring its polarization.  Dr. Martha Haynes, Cornell professor and current Project Director, said of the new telescope:  “CCAT-p will be at the forefront of original science and as a university collaboration, we are particularly enthusiastic that students will be involved with every aspect, including planning for and execution of the telescope surveys. They won’t just be bolting equipment together — they will be building instruments and doing everything necessary to prepare for using the telescope.”

AUI believes that the new CCAT telescope represents a new era of collaboration among university groups, including a strong Chilean participation.  Dr. Ethan J. Schreier, AUI President, states: “AUI is pleased to have helped the university community develop the CCAT concept and is helping it evolve into the CCAT Prime project.  We are especially enthusiastic that Chilean astronomers will be part of this project, as AUI remains committed to doing everything we can to foster scientific and engineering collaborations with Chile.  We are proud to have contributed to CCAT’s development, and will continue to do what we can to help CCAT Prime during its construction.  We look forward to seeing its first light in 2021.”

Image credit: S. Parshley, CCAT Project