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Moonbeam collectors

world Updated: Dec 05, 2007 23:41 IST

Reuters
Highlight Story

Financial advisor Jaron Ness stands in the cool desert air waiting for the clouds to clear and the moon to rise.

As the conditions come into alignment, he steps into the path of a cool blaze of blue-white light bounced off a wall of highly polished parabolic mirrors five stories high.

“It feels magnetic,” he says, turning his hands slowly in the reflected glow of the light from the almost full moon.

Ness is among a growing number of curious people beating a path to this patch of scrub-strewn land out in the Arizona desert to bask in light from the world’s first moonbeam collector.

A Tucson-based inventor and businessman Richard Chapin and his wife Monica are behind the giant device, which gathers up and focuses the light of the moon.

Neither of the Chapins are scientists. The couple used income from a popular swap meet they own in Tucson to develop what they call their ‘Interstellar Light Collector,’ which has so far cost them $2 million.

It consists of a large frame sunk into a 14-metre crater, on private land in sparse desert. The device is five stories tall and weighs 25 tonnes, and is covered with 84 mirrored panels set on a hydraulic mount that, the Chapins say, can focus the light of the moon with “the precision of a Swiss watch.”

So far they have had more than 1,000 visitors. Some dress in robes, others strip to their underwear to bask in the moon glow from the glittering bank of mirrors, spending from three minutes to 15 minutes.