São Paulo, Brazil to Join Giant Magellan Telescope Project

24 July 2014

Joint news release with the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization

Pasadena, CA & São Paulo, Brazil — The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), Brazil, has taken a critical step towards joining the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) project. The GMT, an astronomical observatory of unprecedented scale, will allow astronomers to probe the formation of stars and galaxies shortly after the Big Bang, to measure the masses of black holes and to discover and characterize planets around other stars. The giant telescope will be located at the Las Campanas Observatory, high in the Chilean Andes, and will begin scientific operations at the start of the next decade. The University of Texas at Austin is a founding partner in the GMT project.

Dr. Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, Scientific Director of FAPESP stated that “the Executive Board of the Foundation has approved $40M toward membership in the GMT project. Discussions between the Foundation and the Ministry of Science and Technology of Brazil are well advanced to share these costs and allow astronomers from all states of Brazil to have access to the telescope.” São Paulo Research Foundation — FAPESP — is an independent public foundation with the mission to foster research and the scientific and technological development of the State of São Paulo.

Dr. Wendy Freedman, Chair of the Board of Directors for the GMT Project, said “The GMT community enthusiastically welcomes our colleagues from Brazil, and looks forward to partnering with Brazilian astronomers, engineers, and industrial firms as we build the GMT.” Professor Joao Steiner, an astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences of the University of São Paulo, said “Joining the GMT project will help ensure that Brazilian astronomers remain at the forefront of research for decades to come.”

The GMT will use seven of the largest optical mirrors ever made to form a single telescope 25.4 meters in diameter. Adaptive optics technology and powerful lasers will be used to measure and correct distortions induced by the Earth’s atmosphere to produce images of distant celestial objects with unprecedented clarity. More than one hundred engineers and scientists at the GMT offices and the partner institutions are engaged in the development of the telescope and its giant optics. The first of the seven 8.4-meter diameter off-axis primary mirrors has been completed at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab; two others are being ground and polished while the glass for the fourth mirror will be melted in the lab’s furnace in March of next year. The GMT’s giant optics will allow it to make images in the infrared region of the spectrum that are 10 times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Construction of the observatory’s on-site infrastructure is expected to commence in 2015 while the telescope mount and other systems will be delivered to the site in 2018. The GMT should begin scientific operations in 2021.

The GMT partner institutions are: Astronomy Australia Limited, The Australian National University, The Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard University, the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, the Smithsonian Institution, Texas A&M University, The University of Arizona, the University of Chicago, the University of Texas at Austin, and, most recently, the University of São Paulo.

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Dr. Wendy Freedman, Chair, Board of Directors, GMT Organization: 626-304-0204

Dr. Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, Scientific Director, São Paulo Research Foundation, FAPESP: +55 11-3038-4010

Prof. Joao E. Steiner, Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences of the University of São Paulo: +55 11-3091-2713


GMT Artist's Concept