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The GMT Project Welcomes the NRC Decadal Survey Recommendations

August 16, 2010

news_item3Pasadena, CA – The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) Corporation applauds the National Research Council’s (NRC) strong endorsement of the scientific case for the next generation of “Giant Segmented Mirror Telescopes (GSMT).”

The NRC of The National Academy of Sciences just released its Astro2010 report called “New Worlds, New Horizons.” The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Project welcomes the opportunity to show how the GMT’s abilities match the scientific questions highlighted in the NRC decadal survey. The GMT will be located in Chile, close to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) international radio observatory and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), making it ideally placed for joint scientific investigations with these flagship facilities. Dr. Patrick McCarthy, the GMT Project Director, said “We are delighted to have the opportunity to demonstrate that GMT meets the scientific goals for national participation in a GSMT and are eager to start discussions with the National Science Foundation (NSF).” Harvard University Professor Robert Kirshner, a member of one of the NRC advisory panels, said “the scientific case for a GSMT is clear and compelling.” The GMT partners, a consortium of United States and international universities and research laboratories, are committed to developing a 25-meter telescope to address the key science objectives identified in the NRC report. The partners have provided funding that is supporting the completion of the design work and enabling early construction work, including the fabrication of the primary mirror segments. Dr. Wendy Freedman, Chair of the GMTO Board of Directors, said “We welcome the recommendations of the decadal survey and look forward to helping to implement them.”

http://sites.nationalacademies.org/bpa/BPA_049810


The University of Chicago Joins the Giant Magellan Telescope Project

July 19, 2010

news_uofcPasadena, CA – The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) Corporation is pleased to announce that the University of Chicago has joined the partnership that will construct the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), a state of the art astronomical observatory. The GMT will be used to address fundamental questions in cosmology and astrophysics and to explore worlds around other stars.

The University of Chicago joins an international consortium of leading educational and research institutions from the United States, South Korea, and Australia to build and operate the GMT. The addition of Chicago raises the number of GMT founding institutions to ten. Together with recent major financial commitments to construction from the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, the Australian National University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and other founding partners, Chicago’s participation brings the partnership closer to the funding level needed to begin construction, just over $240M or approximately 35% of the total project cost.

GMT will be located at one of the world’s premier astronomical observing sites, the Las Campanas Observatory in the Chilean Andes. It will be one of the world’s largest and most powerful astronomical observatories and will have more light gathering power than all of the current telescopes in Chile combined. The GMT will use the latest techniques in Adaptive Optics to remove blurring caused by the Earth’s atmosphere, producing visible and infrared images that are up to ten times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope. The unprecedented clarity and sensitivity of these images will provide astronomers with a powerful new tool to study still-unsolved mysteries of the universe, including the formation of planetary systems, the growth of black holes, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

The GMT features an innovative design of seven 8.4 meter, or 27 foot, diameter primary mirrors arranged in a hexagon. The seven mirrors, six of which are off-axis, will work in concert to produce a single telescope 25 meters or 82 feet in diameter. The mirrors are being developed at the Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory (SOML) at the University of Arizona. The first off-axis mirror is in the final stages of polishing and will be completed by the end of the year. In addition, the GMTO is laying the groundwork to cast the second mirror blank in the summer of 2011.

Professor Rocky Kolb, Chair of the University of Chicago’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor said, “We are delighted to join the GMT consortium; this is an important step towards keeping the University of Chicago on the cutting edge of research in Cosmology and Astrophysics.” “With the University of Chicago joining the GMT Project, our partnership is nearly complete. The GMTO Board enthusiastically welcomes the addition of their diverse strengths to the consortium,” said Dr. Wendy Freedman, Chair of the GMTO Board. Dr. Patrick McCarthy, Director of the GMTO, added, “The Chicago department has a great mix of scientific excellence, technical skill, and real-world know how. We are thrilled to have them on the GMT team.”


U.S. Embassy Santiago, Chile Hosts GMT

November 6, 2009

news_chilegroupU.S. Ambassador to Chile, Paul Simons, hosted Dr. Wendy Freedman, Director of Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, and Dr. Patrick McCarthy, Director of the Giant Magellan Telescope at Carnegie Observatories, during their visit to Chile to introduce the Giant Magellan Telescope project to the astronomical community in Chile.

Embassy Press Release


Australia Raises $72 Million for GMT

news_sitePasadena, CA – The Australian government has announced that it will provide $88.4 million AUD ($72.4 million USD) to help fund the revolutionary 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) to be sited at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile’s high-altitude Atacama Desert. This brings the funding that has been raised to date to $200 million out of approximately $700 million total needed to complete construction, which is scheduled for 2019.

The GMT will be built and operated by a consortium of institutions from the United States, South Korea, and Australia. Larger and more powerful than any previous optical telescope, it will be up to 100 times more sensitive than current ground-based telescopes, and will produce images 10 times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope.

GMTO Corporation Board Chairperson and Carnegie Observatories director Wendy Freedman said, “We are delighted at the success of our Australian colleagues. This funding will give Australian astronomers access to about 10% of the time on the GMT, and assure that they remain at the forefront of astronomical research. It provides another strong boost of forward momentum for the project, one of many it has received of late.”

Harvey Butcher, Director of the Australian National University Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Mount Stromlo Observatory said, “Involvement in GMT will strongly advance Australia’s contributions to science and innovation and provide a focus for attracting the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

“Australia’s action strengthens the GMTO and will help us build the telescope we dream of in Chile. To achieve this dream takes money, talent, and grit. The Australians are bringing all three,” said Patrick McCarthy, director of the GMTO.

The GMT will combine seven 8.4-meter primary mirror segments resulting in an equivalent 24.5-meter telescope. It will be used to explore currently unanswered questions about the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the origin of the first stars and first galaxies, and the mysteries of star formation, galaxy evolution, and black hole growth. The GMT will also play a key role in the detection and imaging of planets around nearby stars.

In the United States the participating institutions are the Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, Texas A& M University, the University of Arizona, and the University of Texas at Austin. The two Australian members of the Founders group are the Australian National University and Astronomy Australia Limited. Earlier this year, the South Korean government approved participation in the GMT project, with the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute as the representative of the Korean astronomical community.


GMTO Corporation Founders’ Agreement

Nine Institutions Officially Sign Agreement for 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope. GMT Welcomes Korea to Partnership.

February 6, 2009

partner_wmarksThe Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Corporation is pleased to announce that nine astronomical research organizations from three continents have signed the Founders’ Agreement to construct and operate the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in the Andes Mountains of Chile. In the United States the participating institutions are the Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, Texas A& M University, the University of Arizona, and the University of Texas at Austin. The two Australian members of the Founders group are the Australian National University and Astronomy Australia Limited. Most recently, the South Korean government has approved participation in the GMT project, with the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute as the representative of the Korean astronomical community.

GMT Corporation Board Chairperson and Carnegie Observatories Director, Wendy Freedman noted that “the Founders’ Agreement establishes the framework for the construction and operation of the telescope. The Founders group represents an extraordinary team of institutions each one of which has made important contributions to the development of the most advanced telescopes and instrumentation during the last 100 years. The GMT continues this remarkable legacy.”

Added Charles Alcock, Director of the Center for Astrophysics representing Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution, “We are very pleased to be joining this project, which will allow us to remain at the forefront of astronomical discovery in the 21st century.”

With its seven co-mounted 8.4-meter primary segments and adaptive secondary system, the GMT will provide unique capabilities in optical and infrared astronomy, it will open new windows onto the Universe and help answer questions that cannot be answered with existing facilities. The GMT will teach us about the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the origin of the first stars and first galaxies, the mysteries of star and planet formation, galaxy evolution, and black hole growth. The GMT will also play a key role in the detection and imaging of planets around nearby stars.

Scheduled for completion around 2019, the GMT will have the resolving power of a single 24.5-meter (80-foot) primary mirror. Each of the primary mirror segments weighs 20 tons, and the telescope enclosure has a height of about 200 feet. The project is aiming to complete the detailed design for this telescope over the next two years. Fundraising for the project is ongoing. A total of $130 million out of approximately $700 million needed has been raised to date. Construction will begin in 2012.

The signing of the Founders Agreement accompanies two other project milestones. The first of GMT’s six “off-axis” honeycomb mirrors, cast in 2005, has just been generated to its almost-final surface at the University of Arizona Mirror Lab, and polishing and testing will be completed in early 2010. “Completion of this off-axis mirror retires one of the largest technical challenges of the project,” said Mirror Lab Director, Roger Angel. The GMT Project has also recently reached another milestone in choosing to build the GMT at Las Campanas Observatory, overlooking the Atacama Desert in the Chilean Andes. Las Campanas is owned and operated by the Carnegie Institution. “In both the mirror technology and the site, the GMT project is building on the superb heritage demonstrated by the two very successful 6.5-meter Magellan telescopes that have been in operation at Las Campanas since 2000,” according to Matt Johns, GMT Project Manager.

“The science opportunities for this telescope are extraordinary,” observes astronomer and GMT Acting Director Patrick McCarthy. “It will shed light not only upon the nature of the Universe but also on the fundamental laws of physics that govern its evolution. As such, it seems especially fitting that this international Founders’ Agreement should have been signed in the International Year of Astronomy and the 400th anniversary of the first astronomical use of a telescope by Galileo.”