Gallery: Grand opening of new lab for balloon-borne astronomy
The University of Arizona on Monday celebrated the opening of the Mission Integration Lab, a new research building in the UA Tech Park at The Bridges that will accommodate testing and preparation for balloon-borne astronomy missions.
Balloon-borne astronomy fills an important niche between ground-based observatories and space telescopes, allowing for the deployment of telescopes and other instruments to altitudes where they experience less interference from Earth's atmosphere. Modern balloon-borne observatories offer space-like views of the universe at a fraction of the time and cost of a full space mission.
The Mission Integration Lab provides a tall, hangar-like space, known as a "high bay," which allows researchers to prepare and test balloon payloads and other space payloads before their flights.
The Monday event featured remarks from University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins; Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, UArizona senior vice president for research and innovation; and Carol Stewart, vice president for Tech Parks Arizona.
Equipment was on display from two balloon-borne missions:
- The Terahertz Intensity Mapper, a NASA-funded balloon mission designed to create a giant map of galaxies from over 5 billion years of cosmic history. The mission relies on an imaging spectrometer capable of detecting extremely faint galaxies in the "cosmic afternoon," the time when star formation in the universe was slowing down from its peak 10 billion years ago.
- GUSTO, short for Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory, a NASA-funded mission to carry an infrared telescope to study the lifecycle of stars in the interstellar medium.
The lab also includes a mural, "Seeds of Wonder," which the university commissioned from Jessica Gonzales, a School of Art alumna. Gonzales painted the mural on canvas in March in Austin, Texas, for the UArizona Wonder House, an interactive set of displays the university brought to the South by Southwest festival.
The painting exemplifies humanity's yearning to look to the skies for inspiration and is about harnessing passions and following dreams. The color palette represents Arizona sunsets and celebrates the beauty of the desert as well as its stargazing friendly night skies.