(Writers and compilers Dr. Marco Antonio Moreno corral and Dr. Silvia Torres Castilleja)


Astronomy is one of the first sciences practiced by humans. Its objective is to explain the evolution mechanisms of stars and the cosmos itself. Our interest in knowing where we come from and where we are going to is so universal that it can be thought to be innate for human condition. Every culture in the world has developed some theory about the origin of the Universe, the creation of the Earth, human’s role in the Cosmos, and since time immemorial they have looked to the sky searching for answers in the stars, answers for the origin of life and life itself. Currently, this search is a scientific task, not a mythical one. 


Astronomy captures our imagination and curiosity and it is a great incentive to instill a scientific methodology that goes beyond limitations and shortages of past descriptive knowledge into society, and it is based on critical reasoning and empirical deductive verification principles, also called scientific method. Astronomy is such an appealing science that it may be the only one with groups of amateurs with no strict academic education practicing it. Amateur astronomers observe the sky just for pleasure, but they also make up a valuable group of knowledge and discovery of transitory phenomena of professional use. Despite the fact that it seems to be simple and available to the general public, astronomy is a complex science with deep ties to related sciences.



With the development and agglutination of generated knowledge, mainly on physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology and geology, astronomy is nourished to the point that even today we talk about astrophysics, to which most modern astronomers are associated with, and also about astrochemistry, astrobiology and paleontology. From the relationship with similar sciences concrete examples of basic abstract theories are created: phenomena such as planet movement or amplification of distant galaxies images are only signs of the force of gravity; and the internal structure of a star may be described with some simple differential equations, solvable for advanced high school students. This is only a classic sample of how astronomy benefits from the growth of other sciences and offers appealing visual applications for science students and even for a curious citizen in the Universe that surrounds him.


Astronomy also offers progress roads and new challenges to related sciences. Sometimes with discoveries that most fit with the structure of forces and fundamental parts of nature, such as the proposal of the existence of dark matter and energy revealed by the rotation curves of near galaxies and the brightness of supernovas at great cosmological distances. It also highlight technical lacks such as those of the new computer methods that allow a solution to radiation transport in the extreme physical conditions of interstellar medium collisions. However, it creates many challenges for the technological field. Frequently, to go beyond new knowledge limits, the building of great infrastructure and sophisticated equipment is needed. This presents concrete challenges in first point technology. The new technology, developed to satisfy the requirements imposed by a demanding scientific case, usually finds new applications on the civil and business front spontaneously. Although it may take a long time, even decades, before being considered as technology for consumption, and by that time it is already led by some other academic bodies. 










 Astronomy in the colonial Mexico.


Although it is well known that the Mesoamerican peoples had some remarkable astronomical knowledge, little is known about astronomy in colonial Mexico. The practical part of this discipline came to the New World with the sailors, but academic instruction began formally in 1540, when the Augustinian Alonso de la Veracruz started explaining geocentric astronomical concepts in the Colegio Mayor attached to the convent his order established in Tiripetío, Michoacán.

In 1637 the chair of astronomy and mathematics was opened at the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, which was the first American University to do so. The teacher was the religious Mercedarian Diego Rodriguez, who taught for over 30 years. In addition to it, he left many manuscripts where he worked in astronomy and mathematics and built several instruments used for observations... (Read more )




Astronomy in Mexico


Astronomy has always been present, although in different degrees, in the cultural life of Mexicans. In pre-Hispanic times, the study of stars cycles was an important part of the priests’ activities, although their astrological conception (the belief that human destiny is governed by the position of the stars) differed a lot from what we now call science. Hispanic astronomy appears always intimately mixed with mythology, religion, agriculture, architecture, and other activities of the societies of that time (Aveni 2005). 


During colonial times, several factors came together to support astronomy and science in general, on a very secondary position. Contributing to this situation both the relative disinterest by showed the Spanish conquistadors and the fact that, in general, the colonists have never tried to empower the colonized people, and as Francis Bacon noted long ago, science is power. Despite the adverse conditions, throughout colonial times there were some distinguished Mexicans that made astronomical activities, never full-time, but as another of their various concerns. A prominent case is that of Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645-1700), who in his work Libra astronómica y philosóphica (1690), discusses the nature of comets based on the writings of eminent astronomers such as Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler and Galileo.


By the nature of this volume, we will not touch more events occurred before Independence. It is after independence, especially during the Reformation, where Mexico starts to have activities that we can compare to those occurring in the developed world at the time.



   astronomia   bacon francis


             Pre-Columbian astronomy                                                           Francis Bacon




Francisco Díaz Covarrubias (1833-1889): a nineteenth-century Mexican astronomer.



Undoubtedly Francisco Díaz Covarrubias was the most prominent Mexican astronomer of the nineteenth century. And the highlight of Mexican astronomy in this century was the observation of the transit of Venus across the Sun, in 1874, in Yokohama, Japan, discovered by Diaz Covarrubias and his team.

Francisco Díaz Covarrubias was born Jan. 21 in 1833 in Jalapa. He studied at Colegio de Minerías, where he graduated as an engineer surveyor. And in 1854, being 21 years old, he was named teacher of the subjects of geodesy, topography and astronomy at the Minerías seminar. In 1855, he determined the latitude and longitude of the Querétaro city by astronomical observations. He also directed the creation of the geographical map of the Valley of Mexico. And in 1857, he specified the longitude and latitude of the country's capital. Accurately, he calculated the solar eclipse of March 25, 1857, which was observed in Mexico City. For him, this event was a great triumph, as the eclipse hadn’t been predicted by the time of calendars


In 1867, after the victory of the Republic, Diaz Covarrubias was appointed by Juarez as senior officer of the Ministry of Development, a position he held until 1876. The same year, along with President Juarez, he checked the status of the astronomical instrumentation in Chapultepec. Due to the damaged equipment and property they decided to put off the reinstallation of the Astronomic Observatory in Chapultepec.


The success of the expedition to Japan allowed Diaz Covarrubias to launch again the idea of reinstalling the astronomical observatory in Chapultepec. When changing the administration in 1876, at the beginning of Porfírio Diaz’s presidential administration, Vicente Riva Palacio was in charge of the Ministry of Development and was the one who takes up the project and convinced President Porfirio Diaz to continue supporting it. By presidential decree on December 18, 1876, Porfirio Diaz created the National Astronomical Observatory ( OAN Anniversary ) And on December 28, Angel Anguiano, disciple of Diaz Covarrubias, was appointed Director. By the same time, the construction was begun on the new facilities and, on May 5, 1878, the National Astronomical Observatory in Chapultepec was opened... (Read more)





The Tacubaya Observatory (1876-1954) 



The first four directors were NAO   engineers: Angel Anguiano (1840-1921) from 1876 to 1899; Felipe Valley (? -1910) from 1899 to 1910; Valentín Gama (1868-1942) from 1910 to 1914, and Joaquín Gallo (1882 -1965) from 1914 to 1947.OAN fueron ingenieros: Ángel Anguiano(1840-1921) de 1876 a 1899; Felipe Valle(?-1910) de 1899 a 1910; Valentín Gama(1868-1942) de 1910 a 1914, y Joaquín Gallo(1882-1965) de 1914 a 1947.

In the period of 1876-1947 NAO functions consisted in: the actual astronomical functions, which were mainly directed to the study and dissemination of astronomy of position (including observation of asteroids, comets, planets and solar eclipses), and a range of services related to astronomy and earth sciences, which through the years, were channeled to other areas such as: geodasy, mapping, geomagnetism, climatology, and seismography and hour service.


Angel Anguiano, disciple of Diaz Covarrubias, received in 1876, the task of directing the NAO , which was inaugurated in 1878 in the Chapultepec Castle.The creation of the NAOwas due, as already noted, to the good offices of Vicente Riva Palacio (1832-1896) and Diaz Covarrubias. Astronomers convinced Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915) with the idea of the importance of the project by mentioning that the observatory would allow to precise maps elaboration of the whole republic, besides attending strictly astronomical aspects.


In 1881, It’s published the first National Astronomical Observatory Yearbook, a publication that has continued unabated to date. In 1883, the National Astronomical Observatory was moved to the former Archbishop Palace in Tacubaya ... (Read more)





The Map of the Sky (1887-1970)



The project of the Map of the Sky was the main line of research at the NAO, since 1887 until 1947, which leads us to discuss on what consisted this project, what was Mexico’s participation, and what were it’s achievements and failures worldwide as well as it’s effects in México.

The Map of the Sky program had two main objectives: make a catalogue of the whole sky, including the magnitudes and coordinates of all the stars brighter than 11.5 magnitude and create a map of the sky that included all the start brighter than 1.5 magnitude. These objectives required the combination of several observatories located on different latitudes to observe in a suitable way all the celestial sphere.   

In 1887, 18 observatories from 11 countries undertook to participate in the program. It also required the telescopes to be similar so that each one of the dozens of thousands of photographic plates involved had the same specifications. In literature, there is some confusion regarding the name Map of the Sky, because it was used to designate four different things: the program as a whole, the catalogue (that he will call the Astrographic Catalogue), the chart or map of the whole sky and each one of the telescopes of refraction that were used to take the plates. 

In 1919 the International Astronomical Union was founded to coordinate the world astronomy, (Mexico joined the following year, in 1920). The program of the Map of the Sky became the 23th Committee of the IAU. The committee disappeared in 1970 once the main objective of publishing the Astrographic Catalogue for the whole sky was achieved... (Read more)


                                                                                              carta del cielo



The beginning of Mexican astrophysics (1942-1970)



In 1942 the Astrophysics Observatory of Tonantzintal was inaugurated thanks to the efforts of Luis Enrique Erro (1897-1955), an important Mexican politic that was a part of Manuel Ávila Camacho’s presidential campaign. According to some friends of Erro, Ávila Camacho asked Erro how he could reward him for the support that he gave, and Erro answered that with the creation of a professional observatory. The president gave the green light to the construction of an observatory in Puebla, his home town. The full story of the observatory’s preparation can be consulted in the Bartolucci book (2000).

The observatory was built to house the Schmidt camera, its main telescope. A Schmidt camera consists of a spherical mirror that associates each star with a focal surface instead of a focal point; and then to reduce this surface to a point a corrector lens should be added, this will be in charge of “parabolizing” the spherical mirror producing a precise focus for each star. A prism can also be added apart from the tube inlet of the telescope, and instead of getting precise images, we can get the spectrum of each one of the stars.

The Schmidt camera allows to quickly obtaining a large image of the sky (five degrees by five degrees on plates of 20x20). To have an idea of these dimensions, both the Sun and the Moon subtend a diameter of half degree on the celestial sphere.

From 1942 to 1948 the Schmidt camera did not work correctly, but from 1948 and under the management of Haro a series of lines of research were carried out. The most important chronologically were: planetary nebulae, Herbig-Haro objects, T-Tauri stars, bursting stars, spectral classification, blue stars with direction to galactic poles, blue galaxies with emission lines and quasars... (Read more





Consolidation of Mexican astrophysics (1970-1990)  




The consolidation stage of Mexican astrophysics has many ingredients. Bartolucci (2000) has extensively discussed the generation of a mass of critic astronomers, in which Guillermo Haro, Arcadio Poveda and Pishmish Paris participated actively (1911-1999). 

This consolidation phase included the development of observatories in San Pedro Martir and Cananea and the internationalization of Mexican astronomy since the establishment of working relationships with foreign astronomers and the use of the best astronomical instruments in the world like US and Japan radio telescopes, optical telescopes located in Chile and the United States and two artificial satellites telescopes: the International Ultraviolet Explorer in the eighties and the Hubble Space Telescope in the nineties and to date.

This activity was reflected in the production of high quality astronomical articles that appeared in the top journals in the world: Astrophysical Journal (USA), Astronomical Journal (USA), Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (Great Britain), Astronomy and Astrophysics (Europe). Also in 1974 came the Revista Mexicana de Astronomía y Astrofísica, partly heir to the tradition of the Bulletin of Tonantzintla and Tacubaya Observatories, high quality magazine significantly made of a considerable amount of foreign articles, in special volumes published a substantial number of the congresses of astronomy memoires that have been made in Latin America and the Mexican-Texan lectures on astronomy. This magazine is the parameter that has the largest impact among all Mexican scientific magazines.


 spm                 cananea

San Pedro Martir Observatory                                Cananea Observatory



Current stage of Mexican Astrophysics (1990-2009)



Mexican Astronomers, as all other astronomers in the world, want to know which was the past, which is present and which will be the future of the universe and all its component objects, they also want to know if our universe is unique or if its a part of an infinite set of universes.

To get an overview of Mexican astronomers activity, see the book Frontiers of the Universe (Peimbert 2000) that belongs to the collection of Economic Culture Fund disclosure "Science for All", which consists of a set of nine essays written by researchers at the Institute of Astronomy at UNAM. Among other things, this period witnesses a considerable diversification on observational issues and techniques used by Mexican astronomers. 

astronomers. The main emphasis at this stage is to build evolutionary models of all the observable and unobservable: interstellar medium, molecular clouds, H II regions, the stage of star formation (including protoplanetary disks and planet formation), planetary nebulae, death of stars (including the formation of white dwarfs, pulsars and black holes or neutron stars), multiple stars, star clusters, galaxies (including our galaxy, active galactic nuclei and quasars), the universe (including hydrogen formation, helium, deuterium and lithium during the first four minutes after the Big Bang and the formation of galaxies a billion years later).

Para hacer estos modelos requerimos de observaciones de todas las bandas del espectro electromagnético: rayos gamma, rayos X, luz ultravioleta, luz visible, luz infrarroja, ondas milimétricas y ondas de radio.

To make these models we require observations of all bands of the electromagnetic spectrum: gamma rays, X rays, ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared light, millimeter waves and radio waves. Mexico currently has about 150 doctors in astronomy who are working in the various colleges mentioned below:

The Institute of Astronomy at UNAM has two offices located in Mexico city and Ensenada, Baja California. It also has two observatories, one in the Sierra de San Pedro Martir, Baja California (see Figure 2) and one in Tonantzintla, Puebla.

The Centre of Radio Astronomy and Astrophysics of UNAM located at the Campus Morelia of UNAM and created from Institute of Astronomy Unit of UNAM in that city.

The National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics, which has an office in Tonantzintla and three observatories: Guillermo Haro in Cananea, Tonantzintla, and Cerro de la La Negra in Puebla.

Furthermore, there is a consolidated group of astronomers at the University of Guanajuato, and some astronomers at the University of Guadalajara, the University of Sonora, the Universidad Veracruzana, the Universidad Iberoamericana, the Universidad de Monterrey, and the National Polytechnic Institute.

As part of the development of Mexican astronomy in the 21st century there are two projects to install modern telescopes in the country, one radio and one optical-infrared. There are also minor collaborations with radio telescopes and optical telescopes, already built or under construction, located in other countries.

The LMT is under construction at the Cerro de la Negra and is expected to be operational in 2012 (see Figure 3). Mexico, through Federal Government has provided approximately 75% of the cost and the University of Massachusetts the remaining 25%

Since the early nineties the Institute of Astronomy at UNAM is promoting and developing a project to install a new technology optical-infrared telescope for the San Pedro Martir Observatory. This observatory is located in one of the top four places in the world for optical and infrared observations, the other three are in the Hawaiian Islands, the Canary Islands and the Republic of Chile. To date, the Institute of Astronomy has obtained funding for the study of the project, but not for construction. Another country’s involvement seems to be a requirement for further progress of this project.

Finally, Mexico is participating as a minority partner in other projects. In the optical we contribute 5% of the cost and maintenance of the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), located in the Canary Islands. With the support of CONACYT there will be access to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), which is being built in Chile. Both projects will be completed within a few years.






What is the main Mexican contribution to observational astronomy?



If we want to remark one Mexican contribution to the observational astronomy, we should choose the discovery of the so-called Herbig-Haro objects, made independently in the early 1950's by George Herbig and the Mexican Guillermo Haro (see Figure 4). One way to measure the impact of a scientific paper is to see how many times in the literature has been quoted. Each of these quotes is a reference of the original work, done in a later article which found useful consulting and using the previous results of the original work. 

While the original Herbig and Haro articles, with the discovery, have a relatively modest amount of citations, 107 for Herbig and 87 Haro, the real impact is important because now we talk about those objects without referring to the original works. So, if we search astronomical items which the word "Herbig-Haro" in the summary, we found 1712 works referring to these objects. The total number of references is greater because nowadays they ae named simply as “HH objects ", and under this nomenclature we find 942 quotes. This is only the summary of later works, and it is expected to be many more references in the complete text, although this is much more difficult to quantify. 

Herbig-Haro objects were, for a long period of time, a mysterious bright nebulosity, with an unknown nature. Over time it became clear that they marked the presence of powerful expulsions of gas during the process of a new star formation. The modern paradigm for star formation, in which accretion (gas falling over the star to increase its mass) and expulsion processes coexist (part of the gas is expelled into the surrounding medium, producing Herbig-Haro objects), has its observational basis in Herbig-Haro objects.


It is important to emphasize that Mexican astronomy remains vigorous and strong, but in order not to hurt feelings, results got by astronomers yet active are not highlighted. The information is available on Astrophysics Data System (ADS) via internet ( ) and there you can check the presence of significant research articles of Mexican authors in the international literature. Astronomers working in Mexico have received more than 50,000 references in the international literature and bibliometric studies which quantify these parameters and show astronomy is the science in which Mexico has more impact in comparison with the rest of the world.


Just as in Mexico there are astronomers from different nationalities, there are also Mexican astronomers working abroad. Both groups have helped to boost Mexican and international astronomy.  






Infrastructure for the Future  


In the late 80s, it was obvious that the observational infrastructure of Mexico was well below of the capacity and the scientific community ambition to generate cutting-edge knowledge. It was also clear that the task of building high quality telescopes with border technology could only be conducted in collaboration with other countries, given the complexity of the needed projects and resources. In fact, demands of new technology to build the next generation of telescopes went beyond the will of investment in science from almost every country in the world. A shift has been necessary so that all new large astronomical infrastructure projects were then international affairs. First, to trust that cultural barriers and legal imperatives can be circumvented, and secondly, to accept that this infrastructure might not necessarily be located in their own country, which doesn’t mean stopping fulfilling its objective to develop and strengthen the national scientific and technological community. 

We will summarize the new infrastructure already funded or approved, most of which is planned to be used in the immediate future in a fully scientific operation. it is open access to the national community. In addition to these national projects, some Mexicans astronomers, as individuals or as members of an institution, have access to another collection of telescopes and astronomical detection devices, which are not national access, but a membership, such as the Pierre Auger Experiment, or the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, among others.



The Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT)


The LMT ( is a binational Mexican American project, led by the INAOE in Mexico and the University of Massachusetts (UMass) in the United States. This is the biggest scientific project ever carried out in Mexico of any knowledge field. With a budget of 120 million dollars it exceeds in magnitude the budget of any other big project (Figure 3). It became the main national astronomical initiative for the new decade thanks to Mexico’s share of the 75%.

The millimetric astronomy was barely established in Mexico before the LMT was approved by the CONACyT as its first megaproject. However, since this regime of observation is relatively new in the worldwide scene and is coming to focus the efforts of countries with strong investments in new scientific technologies (USA, Europe and Japan), the great potential that it had to promptly bring the national community to the vanguard was identified, besides making incursions into a technological field strong in international expansion.

The development and transference of new technologies was one of the requirements established by strong Mexican financial bakers to approve the project. As an answer to this challenge, the bases, the steal allied and the structure that supports the antenna were manufactured by Mexican enterprises, according to the established specifications of the German company that designed the antenna. The INAOE built the secondary reflector with carbon fiber technology, assembled and measured the panels of the primary reflector surface and began to develop microwave instrumentation. The LMT, therefore, has already accomplished to promote the Mexican technological development on microwaves and to try the transference of technology to the country.

The LMT was formally inaugurated on November, 2006 with an astronomical signal detection of 12 GHz. There has been no reception yet on the design frequencies of the antenna, 85—375 GHz (0.85—3mm), because the telescope is still on the verification and trial stage of mechanics and optics engineering, that goes before the scientific verification and trial stage where several observations can be made under the specifications of the design. It is expected that the telescope operates scientifically for a limited time during 2010-2011 as a 30-m. Its instrumentation, however, is being already exploited with smaller telescopes, which functions as a training base for a growing student’s population of the postgraduate courses that are interested in doing their thesis on millimetric astronomy. National astronomers and students have published around ten articles in international magazines provided with this instrumentation.

The Mexican astronomy community is developing an interest shown in this observational area of astronomy. Nowadays there are astronomers all over the country that do researches based on millimetric waves with data obtained with foreign infrastructure, and a greater number of postgraduate students are being formed in this discipline, though the number of astronomers that use these wavelengths is still small. For example, 34 postgraduate theses of astronomy, optics and electronics for development of LMT technology, planning of the science that will develop with it, design and construction of instrumentation in millimetric wavelengths, or the research with LMT supplementary millimetric telescopes, were written at the INAOE up to 2004. Obviously, once the LMT start working scientifically, a growth of new astronomers and technologists on millimetric waves throughout the country is expected, they will use their forefront preparation in academic and educational institutions and the country’s industry. 



The Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA) and access to the US radio-mm infrastructure



Since the eighties of last century a small community of interferometry specialists that use international infrastructure open time, mainly US Very Large Array’s (VLA) of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) Currently, about twenty interferometry specialists are working in Mexico, located primarily in the UNAM, the University of Guanajuato and the INAOE. These astronomers maintain high productivity through their education and access to these facilities.

A little over a decade ago the US, Europe and Japan started planning the next big NRAO interferometer and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), (Figure 5). The new project is under construction, and while it still doesn’t have a usage policy definitely specified, it’ll operate most likely under the European and Japanese model of quotas, according to the contribution of different countries to its construction, maintenance and operation. This new policy represents a potential threat to the Mexican community, lacking a fraction of time for contribution that must be at least 20 million dollars up front, and $ 2 million annually for operation and maintenance.

The efforts between the user groups in Mexico and the NRAO found a way to ensure access by competition from Mexican astronomers and US NRAO, including ALMA, if Mexico contributed formally to the VLA expansion project: the EVLA ( ), located on the Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico (USA). This project improves the spectrum sensitivity and capacity of VLA by a factor of ten, and provides continuous coverage from 330 MHz to 50 GHz. The 72.3 million expansion project is funded by the countries of North America: USA 80%, Canada 17%, and Mexico 3% (2million USD from the initiative of New Fields of CONACyT).

The team built with the Mexican contribution, 22 18.0 to 26.5 GHz and 40.0 to 50.5 GHz bands receivers, is installed since 2005, and the entire team has been used since then in dozens of refereed publications of Mexican astronomers, and in theses of graduate students.

Expansion EVLA is expected to complete its receivers’ improvement stage in 2010 and that the instrument is operating at full capacity in 2012. ALMA expects to start restricted operations in test mode in 2010-2012, with 14 antennas and 2 receivers.




The Great Canary Telescope (GTC)



The GCT ( is an optical telescope segmented of an aperture of 10.4m (Figure 6), which is in verification and testing time in the European North Observatory, located at the Roque de los Muchachos of the island of La Palma, Canary Islands (Spain). The GCT is a key component to keep the canary observatory in the forefront of optical astronomy, which will be still dominated over the next decade by telescopes an opening of 10m, and which provides a window to the universe distant and weak optical for the Mexican community, which is unavailable with the 2m telescope infrastructure in the country.

The Spanish government and the canary autonomic government invested around 120 million. From the beginning, the GCT direction looked for international partners for this project, and this search has been materialized in a 5% from Mexico, through institutional contributions, INAOE and IA-UNAM. The University of Florida (USA) has another 5%.

Negotiations between Mexican institutes participating and the GCT created opportunities to develop an important role in building the new telescope, taking advantage of the experience in smaller telescopes that the country has. The optic astronomical community and IR are waiting for the announcement of the first scientific light of the telescope, and the first science venture, planned for late 2009 to early 2010.

The taxpayer national institutes also announced that the Mexican time is open to the entire community through national contest peer reviewed, as is common with other observatories. And for the first time in the history of the national astronomy, the telescope will have a selection committee of national representation of time, which may also include members who are not assigned to the major centers of the country.

International collaboration due to the GTC has also been very important for the development of instruments in Mexico’s border and for the professionalization of technicians, engineers and astronomers involved in the construction of these instruments. Nowadays, just one institution is able to design and build all the components of the instruments because the devices are unique and extremely complex. The Mexican group, in collaboration with musicians abroad, has participated in consortia to build three of the main instruments of the GCT. These three instruments are: the GCT verification camera consisting on a system to maintain alignment of the mirrors and the optical quality of the telescope; OSIRIS, a spectrograph camera that allows observe simultaneously a large number of objects in a sky field with extension of 8 x 8 arcmins with a spatial resolution of the image limited by atmospheric turbulence; and FRIDA, a spectrograph camera based in adaptive optics that corrects the effects caused by atmospheric turbulence and produces a spatial resolution close to the one obtained by space telescopes, which are not affected by the Earth's atmosphere. These projects are evaluated at various stages by international panels of experts to ensure their quality and viability.





The High Altitude Water Cherenkov Experiment (HAWC) 




Particle astrophysicists and physicists of different national centers have joined to bring the international HAWC project to Mexico. HAWC belongs to the new generation of water Cherenkov panoramic observatories, after the success and conclusion of the Milagro mission that was dismantled on June, 2008 with the purpose of using its electronics and photomultiplying tubes in HAWC. This new generation of telescopes, that is expected to have a useful life of ten years, should be placed somewhere higher than 4000m to be able to detect according to the TeV regime, and the location should be plain enough and with water disposal as to keep a series of tanks where detectors can be submerged.

Among the possible sites of the world where HAWC could be installed, the National Park Pico de Orizaba stands out for its accessibility, just 4 hours from the international airport of Mexico City, its highway, and its proximity to other scientific facilities of first level (LMT), which guarantees the access to a modern communication network. HAWC’s consortium decided halfway through 2007 to locate the observatory in Mexico given the soundness of the national team and the benefits that the site offered.

HAWC will be a telescope that will simultaneously register high-energy gamma rays (100GeV to 100TeV) of 12% of the celestial sphere visible at each time. After a year of operation it will have designed a map of 2/3 of the sky with a sensibility 15 times more than the one of Milagro, which will allow the detection of a signal equivalent to 50mili-Crab Nebulae. This sensibility will make the detection of objects that transmit so far unknown gamma rays possible. Among the scientific objectives of HAWC there is a census of transmitters of Milky Way gamma rays, and the monitoring of burst of variable objects. It is expected that the experiment has a special effect on the study of supernova remains, gamma ray bursts, blazars, and the central black hole activity of our galaxy.

With a joint budget of installation and operation for two years of 7 million dollars, HAWC is an attractive project that capitalizes the Mexican interest through the exploitation of its natural resources (the benign topography of the height and its accessibility). Mexican particle astronomers and physicists require an additional national contribution for the electronics and Milagro’s detectors installation, and so be able to participate in this experiment from a partner position. Although the international part of the project has already decided to locate it in Mexico, Mexican scientists keep looking for federal and state funds that will guarantee a fair participation in the project. 




New Technology Infrared Telescope 





In the last years, Mexico, the University of California and the University of Arizona have been working on a project to install a new technology infrared telescope in the observatory of San Pedro Martir, Baja California. It is a 6.5 meter telescope inside its main optics that would produce a complete map of the sky every three months in four different spectral bands. The maps would allow to detect, in a fraction of the universe much larger than the observed to date, luminosity variations in celestial objects. variable objects of all kinds would be detected: novae, supernovae, X-ray sources, gamma ray sources, bright nuclei of active galaxies, etcetera. The observations would allow evolutionary modeling of these objects and the universe as a whole. This telescope also allow the detection and determination of the orbits of new planetary system bodies such as distant planets, asteroids, comets, etc.. For not variables objects and after four years of observation the result would be the deepest map of the sky in the infrared. Funds in both the United States and Mexico have been requested for its design and then for their construction investment. Funding for the main mirror’s construction is already in our possession as well as for its polishing.




Low income astronomical planning 




To conclude, we would like to include a reflection about the future of astronomy in countries like ours, where science generally receives only modest support and rather erratic (unfortunate situation and we are not talking about). What can we do to maintain our presence in a world in which all things, including science, become more global and more competitive?

New observatories typically cost hundreds or even thousands of millions of dollars and even developed countries have to join together to build these new facilities, both on land and in space. In a desirable future, or utopian, one would expect that these developed countries had some solidarity with developing countries and allowed astronomers of these countries use their powerful instruments. In fact, some U.S. observatories maintained for a long, this open skies policy, proposals that allowed exceptional quality of astronomers from other countries obtained time on their telescopes. But as consortia of several countries to build an observatory were done (a trend started by European countries, which came together to compete with the U.S.), the trend was unfortunately, in the opposite direction. It was enough to have one of the countries in the consortium didn’t agree with the policy of "open skies" to overboard everything. Other countries argued that if this or that country was not willing to sacrifice a small percentage of their time to grant it exceptional observing proposals from other countries, neither do they. This attitude has been leading to a situation where observatories are "closed", which in a simple way, implies that if you put no money for construction and / or maintenance of the observatory and its accessory equipment, you won’t ever get time on it.






Aveni, Anthony, F. Observadores en el México Antiguo, Editorial Fondo de Cultura Económica, segunda edición, 2005.

Bartolucci, Jorge, La modernización de la ciencia en México: El caso de los astrónomos, Plaza y Valdés Editores, 2000.

Débarbat, S., Eddy, J. A., Eichhorn, H. K. y Upgren, A. R., Mapping the

sky, past heritage and future directions, International Astronomical Union,

Symposium 133, Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1988.


Díaz Covarrubias, Francisco, Viaje de la comisión astronómica mexicana al

Japón para observar el tránsito del planeta Venus por el disco del Sol el 8

de diciembre de 1874. Imprenta Políglota de C. Ramiro y Ponce de Leon,

calle de santa Clara, esquina, México, 1876.


Moreno, Marco Arturo, Historia de la Astronomía en México (incluye doce

capitulos escritos por: Miguel León-Portilla, Lucrecia Maupomé, Johanna

Broda, Stanislaw Iwaniszewsky, Robero Moreno, David Piñera, Marco Arturo

Moreno, Joaquin Gallo Sarlat, Bart J. Bok, Paris Pishmish, Luis F.

Rodríguez y Jorge Canto, Manuel Alvarez y Eduardo López), Fondo de Cultura

Económica (La ciencia para todos, 4), 1986.

Moreno, Marco Arturo, Odisea 1874 o el primer viaje internacional de cientificos mexicanos, Fondo de Cultura Económica (La ciencia para todos, 16), 1995.

Peimbert, Manuel, The Astronomy of Guillermo Haro, Revista Mexicana de

Astronomía y Astrofísica, 7, 15, 1983.

The contributions of Guillermo Haro to the study of faint blue

objects, en The Third Conference on Faint Blue Stars, eds. A. G. D.

Philip, J. W. Liebert & R. A. Saffer, L. Davis Press, p. 347, 1997.

 Fronteras del Universo (incluye nueve capitulos escritos por:

Julieta Fierro, Miguel Angel Herrera, Silvia Torres-Peimbert, Miriam Peña,

Luis Felipe Rodríguez, Dany Page, J. Jesús González, Deborah Dultzin y

Manuel Peimbert), Fondo de Cultura Económica (La ciencia para todos, 176), 2000.

La mecánica cuántica y la astrofísica mexicana, en La mecánica

cuántica en México, coordinadora María de la Paz Ramos, Siglo XXI, 2003, p. 45

editor, La Evolución en la Astronomía, El Colegio Nacional, 2006

Poveda, Arcadio, Rodríguez, Luis Felipe, y Peimbert, Manuel, editores, Siete Problemas de la Astronomía Contemporánea, El Colegio Nacional, 2004

Rodríguez, Luis Felipe, La astronomía en México. El pasado reciente y los

retos del futuro, en Las ciencias exactas en México, coordinador A.

Menchaca, Fondo de Cultura Económica, p. 207, 2000.

Torres-Peimbert, Silvia, Logros y perspectivas del Instituto de Astronomía

de la UNAM (incluye trece capítulos escritos por: Manuel Peimbert, Rafael

Costero, Luis F. Rodríguez, José Franco, Silvia Torres-Peimbert, Christine

Allen, Deborah Dultzin, Irene Cruz González, Salvador Cuevas, Mauricio

Tapia, Luis Salas, Elfego Ruiz, Gloria Koenigsberger, y Julieta Fierro),

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1998.

In general, all the books in La Ciencia para Todos del Fondo de Cultura Económica serie are recomended.












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