Giant Magellan Telescope Organization and McDonald Observatory Partner to Inspire the Next Generation of Astronomers

24 June 2014

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Organization is partnering with The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory to present a new teacher workshop curriculum that will educate teachers about how the GMT, the world’s largest telescope, will dramatically advance the field of astronomy when it begins operations in 2020.

“The teacher workshops at McDonald Observatory have impacted hundreds of teachers and their students over their lifetime, and now we’re excited to launch the first of the Giant Magellan Telescope teacher workshops,” said Sandra Preston, McDonald Observatory’s Assistant Director for Education and Outreach.

Starting on June 29, 8th-12th grade teachers from Arizona, California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Texas, and Utah will converge on McDonald Observatory to perform hands-on activities exploring basic physics and learn about the science topics GMT will help to investigate. During the three-day program, the teachers will also tour the world-renowned observatory and participate in nighttime telescope observing to learn how astronomers make discoveries about the universe.

“The Giant Magellan Telescope is designed to operate over the next 50 years and beyond,” said Patrick McCarthy, Project Director at the GMT Organization. “That means the telescope we build today will be used by the astronomers of tomorrow. We want future generations of teachers and students to learn about the GMT so that they can grow with it and be a part of its community of users.”

The goal of the workshop is to prepare these teachers to bring lessons about the GMT to future generations of students and inspire them to choose STEM-related career fields such as astronomy.

"I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to participate in the Giant Magellan Telescope teacher workshop hosted by the McDonald Observatory,” said Steve Biles, a high school teacher from McKinney, Texas.

“This workshop presents a unique opportunity to discover first-hand how the GMT will come to life over the next decade, as well as learn what the GMT astronomers will be studying once it's operational. The ability to bring first-hand knowledge back to my students in the classroom I believe is invaluable. It's also a great opportunity to gain experience with relevant hands-on, minds-on activities that my students really enjoy. I'm looking forward to a stellar workshop!"

Anticipated to be the first of a new class of extremely large telescopes, or ELTs, the Giant Magellan Telescope will be the largest telescope ever built when it begins operations in 2020. GMT astronomers not only hope to answer some of humanity’s greatest questions — like “Are we alone?” — but to uncover new mysteries for the next generation of scientists to solve.

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Dr. Keely Finkelstein (workshop presenter)
Research Associate/Lecturer
The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory

Rebecca Johnson, Press Officer
The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory

Dr. Davin Malasarn, External Affairs
Giant Magellan Telescope Organization

GMT Artist's Concept

The two large domes in the foreground house the 2.1-meter (82-inch) Otto Struve

McDonald Observatory Domes