Taft Armandroff, Director
Frank and Susan Bash Endowed Chair
It is a pleasure to welcome you to our SkyWord newsletter for the friends and supporters of McDonald Observatory. With SkyWord, McDonald Observatory is consolidating our news updates to various groups of friends of the Observatory into a single medium.
With this unified approach, we hope to keep you better informed about McDonald Observatory, the fascinating discoveries being made in astronomy, and our mission to share astronomy with the public.
One of the most exciting projects underway at McDonald Observatory is the enhancement and rejuvenation of our Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET). The largest telescope at McDonald, and one of the largest in the world, the HET is being upgraded to have a much wider field of view and feature greatly enhanced instrumentation. We are confident that these enhancements will enable the HET to produce new, unique scientific results. One of the critical elements in this renaissance of HET is the advanced optical system that enables its larger field of view: the Wide-Field Corrector. One of the research articles in this issue of SkyWord describes this amazing piece of optics, and how it was produced and then carefully delivered to McDonald Observatory. The completion of the Wide-Field Corrector represents one very important step toward the HET reappearing as a fully functional cutting-edge astronomical tool. We will keep you informed via SkyWord as the HET comes back on line and produces new science.
McDonald Observatory is committed to providing cutting-edge research tools to our astronomy user community. As telescopes grow more and more complex and expensive, they become too economically and technically challenging for a single institution to fund. A number of enlightened institutions, including The University of Texas at Austin and its McDonald Observatory, have founded the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Organization to develop and operate what will be the world’s most powerful telescope when it comes on line in 2021. The GMT will feature seven 8.4-meter primary mirror segments working together to greatly exceed the collecting area of the largest telescopes available today. With an advanced adaptive optics system, the GMT will resolve spatial details 10 times finer than the Hubble Space Telescope.
We are pleased to report that UT Austin and its 10 partner institutions have finalized the legal and commitment agreements to enable the GMT to move forward. Thus, the project has entered the construction phase, and we are on the path toward the first revolutionary scientific data from the GMT. As with the HET, look for more information in this and future issues of SkyWord.
Sharing the news of the Observatory is something that I hope will further connect you with our work and mission. Because your participation matters so much, our editorial team would appreciate any feedback or suggestions that you may have for this and future issues. What are your reactions to the first issue of SkyWord? Are there topics related to McDonald Observatory and Texas astronomy that you believe we should include in future issues? Please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and thanks so much for reading.