By Jennifer Eccles, Vice President for Development
For the majority of my career, I’ve had the privilege of working in philanthropy. I caught the bug in college, volunteering and later interning at our university jazz festival. From day one, the job was exhilarating – connecting with donors who knew their interests and championed ideas to make their community a better place. The many reasons for supporting the jazz festival captivated me: from championing the arts in a small community, to K-12 clinics during the festival, to the expansion of the program in neighboring communities. While the specific reasons for support differed, the broad theme was the same: improving the festival and often pushing boundaries of what had not been done before.
Philanthropy is known for enriching our lives through education, the arts, medicine, and public health; it also plays a less well known, but vital role in opening our eyes to the wonders of the Universe. For those of us who are inspired by the night sky and want to share this inspiration with others, astronomy is uniquely powerful and accessible. It has the potency to capture our imaginations (often at a young age) and lead us to pursue science or technology and in the process explore civilization’s most fundamental questions: Where did we come from? Are we alone? What is the fate of the universe? I’m inspired by the philanthropy that supports our innate desire to discover.
Since I’ve joined Giant Magellan Telescope project, I’ve found that pushing boundaries in research, exploration and discovery is a core value of the astronomy community. Creating the largest telescope in history is a monumental endeavor and history shows that new, better and ever larger telescopes enable unanticipated discoveries and drive our understanding of the Universe.
The GMT will feature seven giant mirrors, with an effective diameter measuring over 80 feet and a resolving power 10 times greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope – unprecedented clarity and sensitivity to observe celestial phenomena. Headquartered in Pasadena, CA, the City of Astronomy, we’ve already broken ground on our site high atop the Andes Mountains in Chile, and cast five of the seven mirrors at the University of Arizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab. We expect the telescope to achieve first light in late 2023.
We’ve arrived at this point due to the generosity of visionary philanthropists from our institutional partners who understand the essential need of science philanthropy and the importance of private support to advance astronomy in the 21st century and beyond.
The Giant Magellan Telescope is a massive undertaking and it requires a broad and diverse partnership to bring together the scientific, technical, planning and financial strengths that we need to ensure success. These are exciting times indeed, especially when one considers that this effort is among the largest privately-funded scientific initiatives to date. I’m delighted to be a part of this incredible project that promises to revolutionize our understanding of the universe.
To learn more about getting involved with the GMT project, please visit: http://www.gmto.org/get-involved/.