Pasadena, CA. 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) http://www.anu.edu.au/. 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 of probing 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 accomplishing 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 feet (24.5 meters) with more than 4.5 times the collecting area of any current optical telescope and 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.
The mirrors for the giant telescope are being made using the existing equipment at the University of Arizona, Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory. The lab 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 processed and polishing of the front surface will begin next year. This 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. Detailed information about the design of the giant telescope and the science it will perform is located at http://www.gmto.org/
The Carnegie Observatories was founded by George Ellery Hale in 1904. Located in Pasadena, California, the Observatories operates telescopes on Cerro Las Campanas, Chile. The Carnegie Institution (www.CarnegieInstitution.org) has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments throughout the U.S. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.