AUSTIN, TX — The upcoming world’s largest telescope has passed two critical milestones, according to founding partner The University of Texas at Austin. The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) has passed major reviews on its design and cost estimates and is ready to proceed to construction.
“We’re delighted — but unsurprised — to hear that GMT has passed these critical tests and can move ahead,” said Dr. David L. Lambert, director of the university’s McDonald Observatory and member of the GMT Board of Directors. “UT’s partnership in the GMT will give our faculty, scientists, and graduate students access to a major telescope at one of the world’s best observing sites far into the future, and enable our astronomy program to maintain its standing as one of the best in the world.”
During a week-long review in January, an international panel of experts examined the design of the giant telescope’s complex optical systems and precision scientific instruments. Immediately following, a team of construction experts scrutinized the project’s cost estimate and management plan. Both review panels endorsed the GMT Organization’s plans.
“These reviews are critical milestones required by the GMTO Board to proceed with the construction phase,” says Dr. Wendy Freedman, Chair of the GMTO Board of Directors and Director of the Carnegie Observatories. “Along with the successful casting of the first three 8.4-meter primary mirrors and the leveling of the mountaintop in Chile, each step brings us closer to construction.”
When completed in about 2020 in the Chilean Andes, GMT’s mirrors will have more than six times the collecting area of today’s largest telescopes and 10 times the resolution of Hubble Space Telescope. Scientists will use GMT to explore distant and potentially habitable planets around other stars, to explore the universe in the first billion years after the big bang, and to probe the mysteries of dark matter, dark energy, and massive black holes.
Board members representing the partner research institutions that make up the GMT consortium will meet in mid-2014 to review the construction plan.
The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) manages the GMT project on behalf of its international partners: 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 Chicago, and The University of Texas at Austin.