The University of Chicago Joins Giant Magellan Telescope Project

The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) Corporation is pleased to announce that the University of Chicago has joined the partnership that will construct the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), a state of the art astronomical observatory. The GMT will be used to address fundamental questions in cosmology and astrophysics and to explore worlds around other stars.

The University of Chicago joins an international consortium of leading educational and research institutions from the United States, South Korea, and Australia to build and operate the GMT. The addition of Chicago raises the number of GMT founding institutions to ten. Together with recent major financial commitments to construction from the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, the Australian National University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and other founding partners, Chicago’s participation brings the partnership closer to the funding level needed to begin construction, just over $240M or approximately 35% of the total project cost.

GMT will be located at one of the world’s premier astronomical observing sites, the Las Campanas Observatory, in the Chilean Andes. It will be one of the world’s largest and most powerful astronomical observatories and will have more light gathering power than all of the current telescopes in Chile combined. The GMT will use the latest techniques in Adaptive Optics to remove blurring caused by the Earth’s atmosphere, producing visible and infrared images that are up to ten times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope. The unprecedented clarity and sensitivity of these images will provide astronomers with a powerful new tool to study still-unsolved mysteries of the universe, including the formation of planetary systems, the growth of black holes, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

The GMT features an innovative design of seven 8.4 meter, or 27 foot, diameter primary mirrors arranged in a hexagon. The seven mirrors, six of which are off-axis, will work in concert to produce a single telescope 25 meters or 82 feet in diameter. The mirrors are being developed at the Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory (SOML) at the University of Arizona. The first off-axis mirror is in the final stages of polishing and will be completed by the end of the year. In addition, the GMTO is laying the groundwork to cast the second mirror blank in the summer of 2011.

 

Professor Rocky Kolb, Chair of the University of Chicago’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor said, “We are delighted to join the GMT consortium; this is an important step towards keeping the University of Chicago on the cutting edge of research in Cosmology and Astrophysics.”

“With the University of Chicago joining the GMT Project, our partnership is nearly complete. The GMTO Board enthusiastically welcomes the addition of their diverse strengths to the consortium,” said Dr. Wendy Freedman, Chair of the GMTO Board.

Dr. Patrick McCarthy, Director of the GMTO, added, “The Chicago department has a great mix of scientific excellence, technical skill, and real-world know how. We are thrilled to have them on the GMT team.”

The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization is a nonprofit corporation based in Pasadena, California. The GMTO manages the GMT Project on behalf of its international partners. Those partners include Astronomy Australia Ltd., 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 Texas at Austin, and, now, the University of Chicago. For more information, visit www.gmto.org.