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Sunday, October 4, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Observatory At Ellensburg To Be Shut Down By UW

The AP

ELLENSBURG - The University of Washington is closing the Manastash Ridge Observatory and shifting the money spent here to a New Mexico site.

"It was a question of priorities," said Craig Hogan, chairman of the university's Astronomy Department. "If we kept the Manastash Ridge facility open, then we would have to pull back our efforts at Apache Point."

The university is a partner in the consortium operating the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, where a revolutionary new telescope will be used to compile the first digital map of the heavens.

The five-year Sloan Digital Sky Survey will provide a stellar atlas that is 100 times more clear than star charts used for decades and will pinpoint the location of 100 million galaxies.

Hogan said the $40,000 used to maintain and operate Manastash Ridge Observatory will be shifted to Apache Point in the next year. He said he didn't know whether money for Manastash Ridge would be restored.

A non-astronomy project will continue at the field station, using experimental radar to track the aurora borealis and collect data.

University geophysicists are using the radar to develop technology that could help unravel the secrets of the northern lights, improve telecommunications and better monitor tornadoes.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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