UCLA has received a gift of $500,000 from alumni Astrid and Howard Preston to renovate and expand the facility that allows astronomers and research scientists to observe distant galaxies and stars without leaving campus.

Renamed in honor of the couple, the Astrid and Howard Preston Remote Observing Facility in Knudsen Hall provides remote access to the Keck telescopes in Hawaii and the Lick telescope in Northern California, and, when completed, will also link to the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii.

The division of physical sciences in the UCLA College matched the Prestons’ gift at 50%, bringing the total investment to $750,000.

The Preston Remote Observing Facility is used by four astronomy research groups:

  • The Galactic Center Group, led by 2020 Physics Nobel Laureate Andrea Ghez, studies the formation and evolution of galaxies and their central supermassive black holes;
  • The Infrared Laboratory develops techniques and applications of infrared imaging devices for astrophysics, including infrared cameras and spectrometers for Lick Observatory, Keck Observatory, Gemini Observatory, the Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory and NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.
  • Extrasolar planets and planetary science faculty study the dynamics and physical properties of the interiors, surfaces and atmospheres of Earth, planets, moons and other solar system objects.
  • Cosmology, galaxies and galaxy evolution faculty study the nature of galactic nuclei and quasars, the first generation of galaxies and the structure of the early universe.

“I can’t emphasize enough how critical the remote observing facility is to our work,” said Ghez, the Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics. “It allows us convenient real-time access to precious telescope time so that we can collect the observational data that advances our research. The renovation made possible by the Prestons’ gift will not only make a huge difference to all of us who use the facility but also will facilitate the technical development of the Thirty Meter Telescope, the Keck telescopes and the Lick telescope.”

Howard Preston said: “Astrid and I have followed the exciting progress of UCLA’s astronomy research groups for some time, and we know how important this facility is to their work. We are absolutely delighted that we can support this much-needed renovation and expansion, and we are eager to see what discoveries are around the corner.”

The renovation project is due to begin later this year.

Read the full story about Preston’s donation on the UCLA College’s website.