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MEXICO: Mexican hobbyists and astronomers broke their own Guinness record

Mexican hobbyists and astronomers broke their own Guinness record by using a total of 2,753 telescopes all around the country to simultaneously observe the moon, organizers of the effort reported on Sunday.

In the "Reto Mexico 2011" (Mexico Challenge 2011) event and as part of the "Night of the Stars" festival, the astronomy enthusiasts at midnight on Saturday managed to break the record they had set in October 2009, when they had used 1,042 telescopes to observe the Earth's heavenly partner, Raul Mujica, a member of the event's organizing committee, told Efe.

Using homemade and automatically controlled telescopes, thousands of people observed the waxing moon in its fourth quarter, the visible planets and the constellations in more than 100 cities and archaeological sites around the country.

At the archaeological zone in the town of Cholula, in the state of Puebla, organizers met to count the number of telescopes that had been set up in all of Mexico's states to make known the official results of the project.

In an open area in the central city of Puebla, simple telescopes with wooden bases and other professional ones costing up to $15,000 had been set up, according to what Jose Miguel Jauregui, a post-graduate student at the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics, or INAOE, told Efe.

Jauregui, who has participated each year in the Night of the Stars, said that a telescope can be built with optical materials made in Mexico at a cost of about $100.

All through the night until early Sunday morning, thousands of people came to the different sites to observe the moon through the hundreds of telescopes operated by participants.

In Puebla, the Large Millimeter Telescope, one of the biggest of its kind in the world, pointed its 50-meter (162.5-foot) antenna at the moon, although it was not included in the Guinness tally.

Although the participants in the Reto Mexico 2011 moon observing event managed to break the record set two years ago, they were unable to hit the target of 5,000 telescopes around the country that had been established by organizers.

The organizing committee for the festival, which is comprised of Mexico's National Autonomous University, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, the French Embassy and the National Polytechnical Institute, explained in late November that Reto Mexico was the curtain-raising event for the Night of the Stars 2012.

The aim is to deal with the claims made on Maya steles and in that culture's astronomical myths and cosmology about the alleged end of the world next year with an eye toward demythicizing those claims.

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