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Wildfire threatens Arizona observatory
Posted: Mon, Jul 5, 2004, 5:50 PM ET (2150 GMT)
Large Binocular Telescope (U. Ariz.) A wildfire on a mountain in eastern Arizona is approaching an astronomical observatory, but firefighters said Monday the blaze doesn't pose an immediate risk to the telescopes there. The wildfire on the slopes of Mount Graham has come within about 1.2 kilometer of the Mount Graham International Observatory, although a wind shift has slowed the advance of the fire. Early Monday officials said the wildfire, triggered by lightning, continues to grow, but not in the general direction of the observatory. Firefighters are taking measures to reduce the risk of the fire damaging the observatory by clearing out brush surrounding the telescopes there. The observatory is home to a 1.8-meter telescope operated by the Vatican Observatory and a 10-meter submillimeter telescope. The Large Binocular Telescope is also under construction there, with one of its twin 8.4-meter mirrors installed. In January 2003 a wildfire swept through an observatory on Mount Stromlo near Canberra, Australia, destroying several telescopes and buildings there.
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