(SEATTLE TIMES) — At the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society last week, the booth devoted to a revolutionary new telescope called the LSST got a lot of traffic.

Staffed by scientists from the University of Washington and other institutions, the display didn’t feature sexy pictures of galaxies or nebulae, but it did include a sign that said LSST is hiring.

That was welcome news in a field where jobs can be hard to come by. It’s also proof that after decades of planning and fundraising, a dream nurtured in part by UW and backed by Seattle billionaires is well on its way to reality.

On Saturday in Tuscon, Ariz., former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi joined other luminaries to celebrate completion of the telescope’s 20-ton mirror assembly, which includes the largest convex mirror ever made. Simonyi, who has twice visited the International Space Station as a tourist, put up $20 million for the mirror. His former boss Bill Gates chipped in $10 million.

Construction of the $700 million telescope will begin in earnest this spring on a mountaintop in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

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