ATACAMA DESERT, Chile — Leaders and supporters from The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory, along with representatives from an international group of partner universities and research institutions, are gathering on a remote mountaintop high in the Chilean Andes today to celebrate groundbreaking for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).
by Rebecca Johnson
After several years and a massive team effort, one of the world’s largest telescopes has opened its giant eye again. The Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) at The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory has completed a $25 million upgrade and, now using more of its primary mirror, has achieved “first light” as the world’s third-largest optical telescope.
AUSTIN — Some dying stars suffer from ‘irregular heartbeats,’ research led by astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Warwick has discovered.
The team discovered rapid brightening events — outbursts — in two otherwise normal pulsating white dwarf stars. Ninety-seven percent of all stars, including the Sun, will end their lives as extremely dense white dwarfs after they exhaust their nuclear fuel. Such outbursts have never been seen in this type of star before.
AUSTIN — University of Texas at Austin astronomers working with NASA’s Kepler mission have helped to discover the first near-Earth-sized planet around a Sun-like star in the “habitable zone,” the range of distances where liquid water could pool on a planet’s surface. They used the university’s McDonald Observatory to help confirm the finding, which has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.
“We are pushing toward Earth 2.0,” McDonald Observatory astronomer Michael Endl said. “This planet is probably the most similar to Earth yet found.”
University of Texas at Austin, International Partners Approve Start of Construction for Giant Magellan Telescope
AUSTIN — The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) has announced a major milestone recently with 11 international partners including The University of Texas at Austin unanimously approving its construction, securing the future of the project with more than $500 million to begin work on the world’s most powerful optical telescope. The decision initiates final design and fabrication of the GMT, which is poised to become the largest optical telescope in existence.
AUSTIN — Astronomer Andrew Mann of The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded a Hubble Fellowship from NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute, science center for the Hubble Space Telescope.
“It is an honor to receive the Hubble Fellowship, and I look forward to continuing my research at UT Austin,” Mann said.
A team of scientists including The University of Texas at Austin’s Dr. William Cochran has discovered a solar system similar to our own dating back to the dawn of our Milky Way galaxy. They are reporting the find of five planets with sizes between Mercury and Venus orbiting the Sun-like star Kepler-444 in today’s issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
FORT DAVIS, Texas — A five-year analysis of an event captured by a tiny telescope at McDonald Observatory and followed up by telescopes on the ground and in space has led astronomers to believe they witnessed a giant black hole tear apart a star. The work is published this month in The Astrophysical Journal.
FORT DAVIS — Craig Nance begins his tenure as Superintendent of McDonald Observatory today. The Superintendent is the on-site manager of the Observatory.
“Craig brings strong management experience, extensive engineering background, love of astronomy, and excellent performance in a very similar position,” at Mount Graham International Observatory, said McDonald director Dr. Taft Armandroff.
AUSTIN — Astronomers from McDonald Observatory are providing input to the National Research Council (NRC) on a variety of topics in response to a community-wide request from the council in late August. The NRC has a committee on optical and infrared astronomy that is seeking input on topics important to the future of the field in the United States in the era of the forthcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).