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Dr. Rebecca A. Bernstein named Project Scientist for Giant Magellan Telescope

rabernsteinThe Giant Magellan Telescope Organization announces the appointment of Rebecca A. Bernstein, Ph.D. to the position of GMT Project Scientist. Dr. Bernstein will provide technical and scientific leadership for the design and construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope – a unique optical and infrared instrument with an aperture of 25 meters (80 feet in diameter) intended for basic research in astronomy and astrophysics. Dr. Bernstein completed her BS in physics at Princeton and received a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the California Institute of Technology. She took a prestigious NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship to the Carnegie Institution for Science where she played a leading role in the development of a high-resolution spectrograph for the 6.5m Clay (Magellan II) Telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory. In 2001 she joined the faculty of the University of Michigan as an Assistant Professor. In 2007 she accepted a position as Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In addition to her role as the GMT Project Scientist, Dr. Bernstein will join the distinguished research faculty at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Dr. Bernstein said of this move, “I think this is a terrific project and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join GMT.”

Dr. Bernstein is known for her fundamental research into extragalactic background light and the chemical enrichment of galaxies. She is also known for her work in the development of state of the art instrumentation for large telescopes. Most recently she has been the optical designer and Principle Investigator for the wide-field, optical spectrograph for the Thirty Meter Telescope project, one of the first generation instruments currently planned for TMT. Dr. Wendy Freedman, Chair of the GMTO Board, said of this appointment, “Dr. Bernstein brings a unique combination of technical excellence and scientific breadth to a critical leadership position within the project.”

Concurrent with this appointment, GMTO has appointed Dr. Bruce C. Bigelow to the position of Opto-mechanical Systems Lead. Dr. Bigelow has managed the design and development of large scientific instruments for a wide range of ground- and space-based telescopes, including the TMT project and the Keck and Magellan Telescopes, and has contributed innovative design work to many of those instruments. Dr. Bigelow will lead design and development activities for critical optics and opto-mechanical systems for the GMT.

The GMT scientific mission spans the range from studies of planets orbiting nearby stars to studies of the first-light in the universe a few hundred million years after the big bang. Dr. Patrick McCarthy, the GMT Project Director said, “These two outstanding appointments strengthen our team enormously. The Project Staff are delighted to welcome our new colleagues.” The GMT team is completing their design process with the intent to start construction in early 2014. The telescope site in the Chilean Andes at the Las Campanas Observatory has been leveled. The third of seven 8.4-meter primary mirror segments that form the heart of the GMT will be cast in the spinning furnace at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab on August 24, 2013. The first of the segments was completed in November 2012 and the second was cast in January 2012. First light for GMT is expected in 2019 and closeout of the commissioning phase is projected for the 2021–2022 time frame.

The GMTO Corporation, a nonprofit entity with project offices based in Pasadena, California, manages the Giant Magellan Telescope project on behalf of its international partners: Astronomy Australia Ltd., The Australian National University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard University, the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, the Smithsonian Institution, Texas A&M University, the University of Arizona, the University of Chicago, and the University of Texas at Austin. For more information on the GMT, visit


Patrick McCarthy, GMT Project Director, (626) 204-0501 or (626) 298-5804

Rebecca A. Bernstein, GMT Project Scientist

Michael Long, Vice President, GMTO, (626) 204-0555

Wendy Freedman, Chairman GMTO Board of Directors, (626) 304-0204