COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – The University of Missouri plans to buy into an observatory in Arizona, with a goal of doing research it currently isn’t able to perform, university officials said.

The university will buy into the WIYN Observatory, which includes a 3.5-meter telescope atop Kitt Peak National Observatory in southern Arizona. The area of the mirror in the Arizona telescope is 75 times larger than the area in a telescope on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, said Eric Hooper, an astronomy professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is interim director of the WIYN Observatory.

Missouri’s current telescope is used mostly for outreach and public education, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

“(The Arizona telescope) is also a really good research-class telescope, it means we can go and do things that otherwise we might not get time to do,” said Angela Speck, a professor in the physics and astronomy department.

Missouri will buy into the observatory at a 5 percent level, meaning it will have 15 dedicated nights of research on the Arizona telescope, Speck said. The annual payment will be $130,000, with $50,000 from the physics and astronomy department and $80,000 from the provost’s office.

University of Missouri officials have set a goal of improving the school’s ranking in the American Association of Universities from 32nd of 34, its current ranking, to No. 28 by 2018. The ranking is based on federal research funding, National Academy of Science members, faculty awards for quality work and faculty citation in high-impact journals.

Speck said the observatory deal could improve the university’s ranking. Plus, not having institutional access to a research telescope has made it more difficult to recruit faculty and researchers to Columbia, she said.

“Now we have something that makes it a little bit easier to get people,” she said.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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