Giant Magellan Telescope Group Gains Partner Down Under

18 April 2006

(News release courtesy Carnegie Institution of Washington.)


Pasadena, Calif. —  The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), the first extremely large new-generation telescope to begin production has gained a new partner — the Australian National University (ANU) . The announcement made today comes from the Giant Magellan Telescope consortium. Other consortium members include the Carnegie Observatories, Harvard University, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, University of Arizona, University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Texas at Austin, and Texas A&M University.

“The addition of the Australian National University to the GMT consortium is the most recent indication of the momentum that the project is generating,” commented Wendy Freedman, chair of the GMT board and the Crawford H. Greenewalt director of the Carnegie Observatories. “We couldn’t be more pleased with ANU’s participation. We all share a common goal to probe the most important questions in astronomy facing us over the next generation — the mysteries of dark energy, dark matter, and black holes; the birth of stars and planetary systems in our Milky Way; the genesis of galaxies; and much more.”

 “The GMT represents a new epoch for astronomy,” stated Richard Meserve, president of the Carnegie Institution. Now with a group of nine, the consortium is well on its way to accomplish its goals,” he added.

The Giant Magellan Telescope is slated for completion in 2016 at a site in northern Chile. It will be composed of seven 8.4-meter primary mirrors arranged in a hexagonal pattern. One spare off-axis mirror will also be made. The telescope’s primary mirror will have a diameter of 80 foot (24.5 meters) with more than 4.5 times the collecting area of any current optical telescope and ten times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The mirrors for the giant telescope are being made using the existing infrastructure at the University of Arizona, Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory, which made the 6.5-meter Magellan telescope mirrors, at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, and the 8.4-meter Large Binocular Telescope mirrors on Mt. Graham. The first off-axis mirror for the GMT was successfully cast in July 2005 at Steward. The back surface of the mirror is currently being prepared to support it to the mirror cell and polishing will begin next year. The mirror technology has been proven by the Magellan telescopes, which are the best natural imaging telescopes on the ground.

The GMT is designed to work in tandem with the future generation of planned ground- and space-based telescopes. Site testing at the Las Campanas Observatory is also underway for the GMT along with many other aspects of the project.

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Notes: Images and detailed information about the design of the telescope and the science it will perform are available online at the GMT web site.

Additional contacts:

Wendy Freedman, Director of the Carnegie Observatories and Chair of the GMT Board, at 626-304-0204

Matt Johns, Associate Director of the Observatories and GMT Project Manager, at 626-304-0288

Patrick McCarthy, Staff Astronomer and GMT Science Working Group Chair, at 626-304-0222