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Ceremony to commemorate completion of Mini-TAO telescope in Chile

  • Yuzuru Yoshii (Professor, Institute of Astronomy)
Figure 1

The building where the ceremony was held has been used as a place for the social interaction of the nobility since its completion of 1925. The dignified ceremony was held in the grand hall, in which many fine sculptures and paintings are displayed.

In commemoration of the completion and start of observation of the Mini-TAO telescope ---- a 1-meter infrared telescope ---- at the University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory (TAO) on the summit of Mt. Chajnantor in northern Chile, a grand ceremony was held in Santiago, Chile on July 7, 2010.

The Mini-TAO telescope is a 1-meter infrared telescope, which was constructed by the TAO research group at the Institute of Astronomy in March 2009 on the summit of Mt. Chajnantor. The altitude of the observatory is 5,640 meters ---- the highest location of any astronomical observatory in the world. This project is also a pathfinder for the planned 6.5-meter telescope project.

The ceremony was jointly held by the University of Tokyo, the Chilean National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT), and Department of Energy, Science and Technology of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile, under the auspices of the Embassy of Japan in Chile. The ceremony was attended by more than 140 people from Chile and Japan, including many faculty and administrative staff members from the University of Tokyo, such as Yoichiro Matsumoto, Managing Director, Executive Vice President, Koichi Yamada, Advisor for the Office of the President, Hiroaki Aihara, Vice Dean of the School of Science, as well as many government officials from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Chile, and so on. Chile's President Piñera sent us his congratulations, encouraging the TAO project.

The Club de la Union, the venue of the ceremony, is located within five minutes' walk from Palacio de La Moneda (Presidential Palace). In the stately surroundings of the historic building, Matsumoto opened the ceremony by greeting all those in attendance. Then, as a representative of the TAO project, I explained the path to the construction of the Mini-TAO telescope and the first observational results, spoke about the concept of the future 6.5-meter large-aperture infrared telescope, and thanked everyone for the support and friendship of the Chilean people. My talk was followed by congratulatory speeches from Jose Miguel Aguilera, President of the CONICYT; Wataru Hayashi, Japanese Ambassador to Chile; Fumio Isoda, Director-General, Research Promotion Bureau, the MEXT of Japan. Finally, congratulations from Gabriel Rodriguez, Director-General, Department of Energy, Science and Technology, the MOFA of Chile drew the curtain on the ceremony.

Takashi Nishioka, Senior Corporate Adviser of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., proposed a toast at the reception party that followed the ceremony. People reminisced on the early planning phase of the TAO project while they enjoyed Chile-style sushi and Chilean wine. Those who had joined a site tour of the observatory that was kindly supported by the ALMA project before the ceremony said that they were impressed by the strong will of the TAO members who were conducting observation under extreme environmental conditions.

On the day before the ceremony, Matsumoto gave a lecture at Católica University, and just before the ceremony, Chile Post held a ceremony for the issue of a postage stamp featuring the TAO project. The next day, Andrés Bello University, the Japanese Embassy to Chile, and the University of Tokyo jointly held a piano concert on the campus of one of Chile's most prestigious universities. These events were good opportunities to show the presence of the University of Tokyo to the Chilean people.

When I looked at the participants at the ceremony, I realized that this TAO project has been supported by so many people from Chile and Japan. I would like to ask everyone for their continued understanding and cooperation for the ever-challenging TAO project.

Yoichiro Matsumoto, Managing Director, Executive Vice President of the University of Tokyo

Yuzuru Yoshii, Professor of Graduate School of Science, the University of Tokyo, Representative of TAO Project

Jose Miguel Aguilera, President of the CONICYT

Wataru Hayashi, Japanese Ambassador to Chile

Fumio Isoda, Director-General, Research Promotion Bureau, the MEXT of Japan

Gabriel Rodriguez, Director-General, Department of Energy, Science and Technology, the MOFA of Chile