Welcome to the September newsletter
Over the northern summer/southern winter, we have made great progress at the Giant Magellan Telescope project.
The first GMT primary mirror segment was recently moved out of the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab into a temporary storage location near the Tucson International Airport. In this newsletter, you can read more about how the move was carried out. Also at the Mirror Lab, the team is polishing the front surface of primary mirror segment 2, and preparations are underway to cast the 5th primary mirror segment on November 4 this year.
The process for selecting the vendors for the next stage of the design and ultimate manufacturing of the telescope mount is now complete. In addition, GMT’s Standing Review Board held their first face-to-face meeting with the Project in mid-August. Their report will help guide the project team through the upcoming mount development and site construction activities.
In August, our new Vice President for Development, Jennifer Eccles, joined GMTO and she has hit the ground running. Read more about Jennifer in her profile in this newsletter.
Lastly, I invite you to view our updated website gallery, which contains over three hundred images highlighting the construction site, mirror production, and community events. The gallery now also contains a resources page with GMT brochures, fact sheets, our logo and desktop art. Check it out at http://www.gmto.org/gallery/.
– Dr. Patrick McCarthy
GMT’s First Giant Mirror Segment Starts Journey South
The first of GMT’s seven primary mirror segments has been moved out of the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona into a temporary storage facility on the outskirts of Tucson AZ, as the first step on its journey towards its ultimate destination at the GMT site in Chile. The move makes space in the Mirror Lab for the production of the remaining mirror segments.
In the weeks preceding the move, the mirror had been lifted into a transport container inside the Mirror Lab. The mirror was lifted with suction cups attached to its precisely polished front surface, which was protected by a sturdy coating.
The transport container is a highly sophisticated unit, containing shock absorbers, load-equalizing levers, and heavy insulation capable of keeping the mirror safe until it is delivered to the mountain top site in Chile. The transport container, weighing twice as much as the mirror itself, was fabricated by CAID Industries of Tucson, AZ: with the mirror inside, the unit weighs 55 tons.
Safely ensconced in its transport container, the mirror was carefully loaded onto the deck of a 48-wheel transporter. The move by road was undertaken by Precision Heavy Haul Inc. of Phoenix AZ, taking around 90 minutes to cover the roughly 8 miles to the storage facility.
GMT Segment 1 being transported through the streets of Tucson AZ, in the early hours of September 20, 2017. Video credit: Damien Jemison.
GMT segment 1 will remain in storage until it is shipped, by road and sea, to the GMT site at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile – one of the world’s premier astronomical sites.
Read the full announcement, and see more photos and video, here.
5th Annual GMT Community Science Meeting
The fifth annual GMT Community Science Meeting was held from September 17-20 at Tarrytown House Estate in New York. The meeting focused on the chemical evolution of the universe and was attended by an international group of 90 astronomers, from graduate students to faculty.
Topics discussed ranged from the progress in detecting the first stars and galaxies created in the universe, to the chemical composition of the gas between galaxies and between stars in galaxies. Other talks focused on the chemical evolution of galaxies in general, and on our nearest neighbors in particular. Several talks also discussed the game-changing impact GMT will have in all of these areas. For example, Ryan Cooke from Durham University discussed how GMT will increase the sample of targets useful for constraining the primordial helium abundance from a handful to hundreds. And Steve Finkelstein from University of Texas at Austin noted that while LSST will find galaxy targets in the nearby universe, the satellite WFIRST will find 10’s of thousands of galaxies per square degree in the very distant universe, near the epoch of reionization (redshifts 6 to 9), and that the GMT will be ideal for efficiently gathering spectra of those galaxies to quantify the earliest stages of galaxy evolution in the universe.
GMT sponsors the conference annually as a way to encourage discussion on topics relevant to GMT’s science case. The project provides financial support for graduate students and postdocs to attend the meeting.
For a full list of speakers and their topics, as well as photos from the event, please visit the conference website at gmtconference.org.
Profile: Jennifer Eccles, Vice-President for Development
We are very pleased to welcome Jennifer Eccles to the GMTO family. Jennifer is GMTO’s Vice-President for Development and is responsible for partnering with President Robert N. Shelton to create and execute a fundraising campaign for GMTO.
For this newsletter, Jennifer answered some questions about her life and career.
What was your initial impression of GMTO and why did you choose to get involved?
The Giant Magellan Telescope is tremendously captivating. Joining GMT presented an opportunity to work with a scientific organization focused on one powerful goal that when complete, promises to expand our knowledge of the universe. Coupled with the relevance and the present need of private science philanthropy, the project was irresistible!
What are your responsibilities and activities as VP for Development?
I work closely with our President, Dr. Robert N. Shelton, the GMT Board of Directors, GMT Founders and our development executives at Founder institutions to fundraise for GMT. With our President, I will employ a comprehensive strategy to raise funds for the project. The scale of the GMT is incredible, and philanthropists and foundations can make a tremendous impact in supporting GMT.
Describe your favorite experience with GMTO thus far
It was a moment of a lifetime to witness the total eclipse in Albany, Oregon this summer, a breathtaking experience and very fun to share with colleagues. Another highlight was visiting the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona where the GMT mirrors are being fabricated—to see the enormous mirrors themselves, view the meticulous polishing, and meet the experts involved.
What is the most important thing you have learned since joining GMTO?
I have found it important to learn about the cutting-edge technology used in all aspects of the telescope, for example, the precision optics and the ability to adjust the mirrors to a matter of microns. The work of GMT scientists, engineers and software designers is truly groundbreaking and I feel so proud to be a part of this organization.
What originally sparked your interest in science/astronomy?
My father was a passionate enthusiast and initially got me hooked. I have enjoyed meeting the generous patrons, and large community that supports the work of the GMT project.
What is your professional background and experience?
The past 10 years, I’ve been with the University of Southern California, as the Chief Development Officer for the USC Libraries and at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy as the Executive Director of Development. In both positions, I focused on principal and major gifts and worked closely with faculty, our boards of directors and Deans to shape campaign plans and fundraise in support of USC’s 6-billion-dollar campaign. Before USC, I was with the University of Washington and Washington State University.
What are you most looking forward to once the GMT is completed?
To witness students and researchers from all over the world utilizing the telescope will be tremendous. As GMT progresses, I believe it will inspire a new generation of astronomers, and increase scholarship internationally.
Update from GMT Chile’s outreach team
To all our friends in Chile and Latin America, and to everyone who wants to follow our latest news in Spanish, we are pleased to announce the launch of our Facebook page Giant Magellan Telescope Organization – Chile.
This Facebook page, created specially to engage with our host community, will include project updates as well as news about local events in Chile, dark sky protection work, and astronomy education activities.
The team in Chile welcomes your opinions and feedback – please visit the page and let us know what you think. ¡Welcome to the GMT Universe!
GMT takes part in the summit of the Chilean Network for Astronomy EPO
The Summit of the Chilean Network for Astronomy Education and Public Outreach (EPO) was held on August 9 – 11, in Santiago, at the offices of CONICYT. GMTO’s Outreach Coordinator, Valentina Rodríguez, played a significant role in the organizing committee and GMTO Representative in Chile, Miguel Roth, was an active participant.
The summit discussed:
- The role of Chile as a “Natural Laboratory” that will soon concentrate 70% of the total observational capability of the world, and the associated need to protect the darkness of Chilean skies.
- The importance of science education for children, and the future benefits to astronomy of attracting young students to science.
- The need to have citizens of Chile be more aware of the opportunities that astronomy presents to the country.
The topic of light pollution control was discussed extensively. This is an important issue, not only for astronomical work, but also when considering the impact of unnecessary light on humans and other life. Astronomers play a key role in all discussions of light pollution in Chile.
In addition, the importance of science education, and the role of astronomy in education, were discussed as a key vehicle for gaining support for light pollution control. As the public is educated about astronomy, support for light pollution control is likely to increase. Also, educating children about astronomy ensures they know about the possibilities the subject offers for their future, and for the professionals, it attracts highly qualified engineers and technicians to work in the field.
Astronomy with all the senses
GMTO Chile took the opportunity of the Summit (see above) organize a workshop that generated an enormous impact. We invited Mr. Andrés Ruiz from the Medellin Planetarium (Colombia), a pioneer institution in Latin America, not only in outreach, but also in highly successful methods for including people with different abilities. Mr Ruiz presented a “backpack” they have developed called “Astronomy with all senses”. Andrés held two workshops on this tool especially designed for blind people. This was a highly emotional experience since, by chance, there were two blind participants at the Summit.
The Medellin Planetarium generously donated this unique backpack to our Chile office, where we plan to use it effectively in our educational activities. We are in conversations with several municipalities in Santiago that could be interested in developing AstroParks with several of the elements of the backpack at larger scales.
You can read more about the project from this article in La Tercera.
GMT team experiences total solar eclipse
Many members of the GMT team experienced the solar eclipse on August 21. Those at GMTO headquarters in Pasadena, California, experienced a partial eclipse; others traveled throughout the country to the path of totality.
Pat McCarthy was in eastern Oregon on Vinegar Mountain. He spoke to the Wall Street Journal after totality, saying, “As soon as we hit totality, we all yelled out. It was such a visceral reaction.” Pat also spoke to Pasadena Now before the eclipse, explaining how scientists used the 1919 total eclipse to confirm the general theory of relativity.
The next total solar eclipse occurs in Chile in July 2019, and the path of totality passes less than a mile from the GMT summit site.
Check out the team’s photos below.