Support and Partnerships

GMT Founders

The Giant Magellan Telescope project consists of an international consortium of leading universities and science institutions.
Partners include:

Astronomy Australia Limited


Astronomy Australia Limited is a non-profit company whose members are a range of Australian universities and research organizations. Its core business is to manage programs that provide astronomers with access to national astronomy infrastructure.

Australia’s participation in the GMT at the 10% level is fully funded.

The AAL is also involved in:

  • 8-meter Telescope Access – Gemini, Magellan and Keck: Australian astronomers have access to time on the twin Gemini Telescopes, the Magellan telescopes in Chile, and the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.
  • Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) – The MWA is located in outback Western Australia. It is a radically new type of radio telescope, with no moving parts, and dependent on prodigious computer power to create exquisite real-time wide-field images of the radio sky.
  • All Sky Virtual Observatory (ASVO) – AAL in partnership with universities and government bodies is building the All-Sky Virtual Observatory, which links large-scale optical and theoretical datasets within a single Virtual Observatory.
  • High Performance Computing – Access to national High Performance Computing facilities is offered through AAL’s Astronomy Supercomputer Time Allocation Committee.
  • The Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) – The AAO is Australia’s national optical observatory. AAL has supported the AAO and the Anglo-Australian Telescope through a range of instrumentation and upgrade projects.
  • The Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) – The ATNF operated by CSIRO, is Australia’s national radio observatory. AAL has supported the ATNF through provision funds for the construction, operation and upgrade of ATNF facilities.

Australian National University


The Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) is a world-class astronomy research group and a major center for the development of astronomical instrumentation and technology.

Our mission is to advance the observational and theoretical frontiers of astronomy and its enabling technologies; to provide national and international leadership in the field; and to train outstanding scientists.

Our headquarters are on Mount Stromlo in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. We operate Siding Spring Observatory, Australia’s major optical observatory, which is located near Coonabarabran, 600 kilometers north of Canberra.

Researchers at RSAA study many aspects of our universe, including:

  • Galactic archaeology – the study of the content, dynamics and evolution of galaxies.
  • Cosmology – the study of the contents and evolution of the Universe as a whole.
  • Planetary science – the study of the formation and evolution of planets, both in the Solar System but especially around other stars.
  • Black hole phenomena – the discovery of the locations of black holes and the study of their interactions with their environments.

RSAA astronomer Professor Brian Schmidt was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011 for his work at RSAA showing that the cosmos is expanding at an accelerating rate.

RSAA designed and built the first two Australian instruments for the international Gemini Observatory, NIFS and GSAOI, which make use of adaptive optics to remove the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere. Currently RSAA is designing one of the first generation of GMT instruments, the GMT Integral Field Spectrograph, and elements of the adaptive optics system for GMT.

Carnegie Institution for Science


For more than a century, astronomers of the Carnegie Observatories have pioneered major advances in telescope construction, astronomy and astrophysics. Headquartered in Pasadena, California, this group of about 70 scientific, support and technical staff continue to tackle some of the most intriguing and important questions about distant galaxies, black holes, dark energy, dark matter, exosolar planets and the distant origins of the universe. They conduct their scientific investigations under the umbrella of the Carnegie Institution for Science, founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1902 to advance human understanding of the natural world.

The Carnegie Observatories have played a leading role in the design and construction of the large optical telescopes critical to the major scientific breakthroughs of the past century. This tradition continues with the ambitious Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) project. Observatories Director John Mulchaey serves as Vice Chair of the GMTO Board of Directors.

The Carnegie Observatories were launched in 1904 when George Ellery Hale, seeking clearer skies than existed near his native Chicago, obtained support from the newly formed Carnegie Institution of Washington to found the Mount Wilson Solar Observatory in the mountains near Pasadena. Hale built both the 60” and 100” telescopes on Mount Wilson, each the largest in the world at the time of their completion. It was with these instruments that Carnegie astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered and first described the expanding universe.

In 1969, the focus of Carnegie observations moved to the Las Campanas Observatory, set high in the southern reaches of Chile’s Atacama Desert. At an altitude of 2,400 meters, in a region of dark, clear skies and excellent seeing that is unsurpassed by any site on Earth, reside the Carnegie Observatories’ telescopes. The principal telescopes at Las Campanas are the Swope 1-meter telescope, the du Pont 2.5-meter telescope, and the twin 6.5-meter Magellan Telescopes. Carnegie operates the Magellan Telescopes for a consortium whose other members are Harvard, MIT, and the Universities of Arizona and Michigan. The twin 6.5-meter Magellan telescopes arely considered to be the best natural imaging telescopes in the world.

The Carnegie Institution for Science reflects the values set forth by Andrew Carnegie: An institution dedicated to enabling exceptional scientists to pursue their ideas with complete freedom.

Harvard University


Harvard University, established in 1636, is the oldest higher education institution in the United States. It hosts around 21,000 undergraduates and graduate students, and 2,400 faculty, and is known for its commitment to educating society’s citizens and citizen-leaders.

The Harvard College Observatory (HCO), founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy.

HCO and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (see below) combine resources and research facilities as part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). The mission of the CfA is to advance our knowledge and understanding of the universe through research and education in astronomy and astrophysics. The organization functions under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe.

Korean Astronomy and Space Science Institute


The Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) is the national astronomy research institute of Korea established in 1974. KASI has opened the history of Korean modern astronomy via the establishment of Sobaeksan Optical Astronomy Observatory, expanded the observational wavelength range to the radio via the establishment of Taeduk Radio Astronomy Observatory, and made a stepping stone to jump into the future astronomy via the establishment of Bohyunsan Optical Astronomy Observatory.

KASI has a variety of research areas such as optical, radio, theoretical and observational astronomy and is expanding its area through astronomical research in space. Doing both pure scientific research on the Universe and development of space-related techniques, KASI is leading the space science era of the 21st century.

Augmenting the brilliant astronomical history of Korea—which has lasted for a few thousand years—with modern astronomical facilities and instruments and new scientific products, KASI will activate Korean astronomical research activities and jump to become one of the top-class astronomy research institutes in the world. We hope to have good relationship and cooperation with other institutes and nations.

The São Paulo Research Foundation, FAPESP


The São Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP – is a public foundation, funded by taxpayers in the State of São Paulo, Brazil, with the mission to support research projects in higher education and research institutions in all fields of knowledge.

The foundation works in close contact with the scientific community: all proposals are peer reviewed with the help of area panels composed of active researchers. Besides funding research in all fields, the foundation supports large research programs in Biodiversity, Bioenergy, Global Climate Change and in Neurosciences.

FAPESP’s expenditures are close to US$ 500 million/year: 37% supports fundamental research, 10% supports research infrastructure, and 53% supports application oriented research, in many cases performed in small businesses or in joint research performed by academia and industry, or in the fields of Engineering and Health Science.

FAPESP maintains cooperation agreements with national and international research funding agencies, higher educational and research institutions, and business enterprises.

FAPESP has supported research in Astronomy for many years, with grants, fellowships for students, participation in programs such as the 4.1m SOAR telescope, and instrumentation for Astronomy. In 2014, it joined the GMT as a founding member and approved funding for the LLAMA radio telescope in the Argentinean Andes and the CTA-mini array.

FAPESP offers many programs to support foreign scientists wishing to work in research institutions in the State of São Paulo. These include post-doctoral fellowships, young investigator awards, and visiting researcher grants.

Smithsonian Institution


The Smithsonian Institution, comprising nine research centers and many museums and galleries, was founded in 1846. Established for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge,” the Smithsonian is today the world’s largest such institution. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) was founded in 1890 and is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution.

The long relationship between SAO and the Harvard College Observatory (HCO, above) began when the SAO moved its headquarters to Cambridge in 1955. This relationship was formalized in 1973 by the establishment of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

The CfA’s history of accomplishments in astronomy and astrophysics is reflected in a range of awards and prizes received by individual CfA scientists. Today, some 300 Smithsonian and Harvard scientists cooperate in broad programs of astrophysical research supported by Federal appropriations and University funds as well as contracts and grants from government agencies. These scientific investigations touch on almost all major topics in astronomy.

Texas A&M University


Texas A&M University has built up an exciting astronomy program. The areas of research covered by the faculty include: supernovae and their application to cosmology, galaxy formation and evolution, resolved stellar populations, detection of extrasolar planets, and astronomical instrumentation. We are involved in many of the most ambitious astronomy programs of the next decade: the Giant Magellan Telescope, the Joint Dark Energy Mission, HETDEX, the Dark Energy Survey and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

TAMU is also playing a leading role in building up the Antarctic Plateau as a site for astronomical observations; Dr. Lifan Wang is the Director of the Chinese Center for Antarctic Astronomy, which currently consists of three Schmidt telescopes. Among many other goals, the Antarctic telescopes will be able to routinely discover planets of the size of the earth.

While we await first light from these ambitious projects, we are currently using world class telescopes to perform our observational studies: the telescopes of the Carnegie Institution for Science, the European Southern Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope as well as the Gemini and WIYN telescopes, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Keck, Magellan, Gemini and Subaru telescopes, and the Chandra space telescope.

The Department of Physics at Texas A&M University offers a range of research programs in both theoretical and experimental physics, many of which are frontier topics. The Center for Theoretical Physics fosters the growth of existing programs and the development of new areas of research such as superstring and super gravity theory.

The current research areas of the department faculty include experimental and theoretical research in atomic, nuclear and low temperature/solid state physics. Other research areas within the department include the theory of elementary particle interactions, atmospheric physics, quantum optics and experimental high energy physics.

University of Arizona


The Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory on the campus of the University of Arizona form one of the world’s leading astronomy research organizations.

The Department of Astronomy currently has the largest astronomy graduate program in the country. The Center for Astronomy Education is devoted to improving teaching and learning in Astro 101, through the development of research-validated curriculum and assessment materials for use in the Astro 101 classroom. Theorists in the Department’s Theoretical Astrophysics Program (TAP) have performed pioneering work in the physics of the cosmic microwave background, weak gravitational lensing, the mechanism of supernova explosions, the structure of the intergalactic medium at high redshifts, multi-dimensional stellar evolution, and the atmospheres and spectra of giant planets and brown dwarfs. The department’s Life and Planets Astrobiology Center (LAPLACE) teams with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and other national and international participants in striving to answer fundamental questions about the origins of life.

The University’s pioneering astronomical facilities in and around Tucson (some in partnership with other institutions) comprise some of the pre-eminent observing sites in the world: the first national observing facility for optical/infrared astronomy on Kitt Peak; the Multiple Mirror Telescope (MMT) on Mt. Hopkins, which led to the University’s forefront adaptive optics research; the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) on Mt. Graham, forerunner of the Giant Magellan Telescope; and the Steward Observatory—a gift from Mrs. Lavinia Steward in 1916—which provided the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). University of Arizona scientists also played a key role in development of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and are developing a 40-Mpixel camera for use on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

The Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, located under the east side of the UA football stadium, is developing the world’s largest spun-cast mirrors for the GIANT MAGELLAN TELESCOPE, as well as for others in the next generation of large telescopes, including the 8.4-m LSST. The Mirror Lab has provided large, high quality optics for three 6.5-m mirrors (the MMT and Magellan Telescope Projects) and two 8.4-m mirrors for the Large Binocular Telescope.

University of Chicago


At the Astronomy & Astrophysics Department of the University of Chicago, we work on a range of topics at the frontiers of astrophysics: from the newest theories in early-universe cosmology to the ancient ideas of the Babylonian theory of the planets; from distant thermonuclear flashes to the nearby interstellar medium; from large-scale structure to small-scale star formation. We study the cosmic background radiation, as well as design adaptive optics. We build detectors, use telescopes and interferometers, and we think about the cosmic consequences of string theory. Our interests range from the theory of astrophysical jets to observations from a jumbo jet carrying an infrared telescope. We investigate the universe using wavelengths from radio astronomy to the highest-energy cosmic rays. We travel the world to discover the cosmos. Our scientific activities take us south to Antarctica and Argentina, north to the polar regions. We go anywhere we can learn about the universe.

We celebrated our 100th birthday in 1997—our Department has had a long and quite colorful past. The founding genius was George Ellery Hale, who subsequently built the Mount Wilson observatory, providing our graduate Edwin Hubble with the tools to discover the expansion of the universe. Hale also co-founded the Astrophysical Journal, which was edited until 1971 within our Department. Other luminaries who have had strong associations with our Department are E. E. Barnard, Otto Struve, S. Chandrasekhar, Gerard Kuiper, William Morgan, Bengt Stromgren and David Schramm among many others.

The astrophysics program at the University of Chicago began with the building of the Yerkes Observatory, in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, where the entire Department was located. By the mid-sixties it had become clear that ties to the intellectual community on campus needed to be strengthened, and there was a shift of the center of mass from Wisconsin to Chicago. All of the academic programs are now on campus. Yerkes still provides laboratory facilities, contains the bulk of the library astronomy holdings outside of Crerar, and offers access to research telescopes and instruments for prototyping and instruction.

University of Texas at Austin


The Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin includes 23 active teaching faculty. There are 24 Research Scientists, as well as a number of Research Associates employed by McDonald Observatory. Together they employ many postdoctoral fellows and maintain a robust research program in virtually all fields of astronomy. In the past several years, the faculty have won six of the major awards given by the American Astronomical Society, in additional to several other international awards and honors.

McDonald Observatory is home to the 2.7m Harlan J. Smith Telescope and the 2.1m Otto Struve telescope, as well as several smaller research telescopes. The observatory is the managing partner in the 9.2m Hobby-Eberly Telescope, located on Mt. Fowlkes. In addition, the Department and Observatory personnel have access to the 10m Caltech Submillimeter Observatory as well as the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT).

Researchers and faculty have recognized expertise in galactic chemical evolution, extrasolar planets, studies of the properties of galaxies and cosmology and employ observational techniques across the complete electromagnetic spectrum. A major addition to the Hobby-Eberly telescope, the field upgrade coupled with the extremely powerful VIRUS spectrographs (Visible IFU Replicable Unit Spectrograph) will enhance our understanding of Dark Energy in the range 1.9 < z < 3.5 through the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX). This study of baryon acoustic oscillations will map the positions of >800,000 Lyman alpha emitting galaxies. Members of the Texas Cosmology Center (an interdisciplinary program between the astronomy and physics department) will lead the interpretation of the results.

The Department and the Observatory have demonstrated strength in training instrumentalists and former graduates are leaders in astronomical instrumentation.