The Giant Magellan Telescope is one step closer to being the biggest ever built

Incoporating some of the largest mirrors ever built, the Giant Magellan Telescope will offer incredible image quality of far-off galaxies.
Christopher McFadden
Giant Magellan Telescope
Giant Magellan Telescope

giantmagellan/Instagram 

  • The Giant Magellan Telescope has received a fresh round of funding.
  • The funds will be used to speed up its final construction.
  • Once built, it will provide unprecedented image resolution of objects in space.

The Giant Magellan Telescope, the most potent telescope ever created, employing the largest mirrors in history, announced today that its worldwide consortium has committed $205 million to accelerate its final construction.

With significant contributions from institutions like the Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard University, the So Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Arizona, and the University of Chicago, this investment represents one of the largest funding rounds for the telescope since its inception.

The money will be invested in the creation of the massive 12-story telescope structure at Ingersoll Machine Tools in Illinois, the advancement of the telescope's seven primary mirrors at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona, and the construction of one of the most technologically sophisticated scientific spectrograph instruments in Texas.

The Giant Magellan Telescope President, Dr. Robert Shelton, said in a press statement "we are honored to receive this investment in our future."

"The funding is truly a collaborative effort from our Founders... It will result in the fabrication of the world’s largest mirrors, the giant telescope mount that holds and aligns them, and a science instrument that will allow us to study the chemical evolution of stars and planets like never before,” he added.

The funding was approved following the Giant Magellan Telescope's evaluation as a key partner of the United States Extremely Large Telescope Program by the National Academy of Sciences Astro2020 Decadal Survey. The program is “absolutely essential if the United States is to maintain a position as a leader in ground-based astronomy.”

The Giant Magellan Telescope is one step closer to being the biggest ever built
Giant Magellan Telescope
Giant Magellan Telescope 

According to Dr. Eric Isaacs, president of the Carnegie Institution for Science, “six like-minded Founders of the Giant Magellan Telescope worked together to close the financial gap between the resources we have attracted to build the telescope and what is required to complete it.”

“This investment will bring the telescope closer to first light and provide the world with transformational knowledge of our Universe. Carnegie is proud to have kickstarted the funding effort and to have worked closely with our peers,” he added.

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More than any previous optical telescope before, the Giant Magellan Telescope, which is being built at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, will enable astronomers to see farther into space with more clarity. In addition to being up to 200 times more powerful than current research telescopes, the Giant Magellan Telescope will have 10 times the light-collecting area and 4 times the spatial resolution of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

The Giant Magellan should provide unprecedented images of space

New scientific findings will be aided by the extraordinary angular resolution, cutting-edge spectrographs, and high-contrast cameras that will be used in conjunction with JWST. The next stage in understanding the physics and chemistry of the smallest light sources in space that JWST will discover will be the Giant Magellan Telescope.

This involves looking for signs of extraterrestrial life in the atmospheres of possibly habitable planets, examining the earliest galaxies to form in the universe, and gathering information that will help solve the riddles of dark matter, dark energy, black holes, and the creation of the universe.

“We are working with some of the brightest engineers and scientists at leading research institutions around the globe,” explained Dr. Walter Massey, Board Chair of Giant Magellan Telescope and former Director of the National Science Foundation and Chairman of Bank of America.

The Giant Magellan Telescope is one step closer to being the biggest ever built
Image quality comparison of a small patch of sky as the James Webb Space Telescope would observe it (left), and a simulation of the Giant Magellan Telescope using adaptive optics to achieve diffraction limited seeing from the ground (right).
Giant Magellan Telescope 

“The recent contributions from our investing partners in the Giant Magellan Telescope are collectively pushing the boundaries of astronomy, making the future a reality, and allowing us to answer some key science goals, including ‘Are we alone in the Universe,'” he added.

Future space travel will be made possible by the Giant Magellan Telescope too. The 25.4-meter telescope will provide the highest comprehensive views of our Universe ever taken using seven of the largest mirrors in the world. It will shed light on the origins of chemical elements, shed light on the cosmic riddles of dark matter, and for the first time, confirm the presence of life on other worlds.

The Giant Magellan Telescope was created by the GMTO Corporation, a global alliance of eminent research organizations from five different nations. The telescope is now being built in Chile, and it will likely be finished by the end of the decade.

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