Press and News
 

December 2019

Welcome / GMTO’s Year in Review

The Giant Magellan Telescope project has had a very productive year.

Early in the year, excavation of the foundations for the telescope’s massive pier and enclosure was completed. Work took just six months during which 469 dump truck loads of soil and rock were transported from the summit to a storage location on site. For the rest of the year, work occurred to upgrade the water and electrical systems, and this is now nearing completion.

In May, the Project completed a major external review of its technical and financial plans and schedule. The results of the review were very positive with the review committee expressing the opinion that the plan was realistic and that the current team can deliver GMT.

University of Arizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab made excellent progress with the GMT mirrors. Mirror #2 was completed and shipped from the Mirror Lab to storage near Tucson Airport in July, joining Mirror #1, which was completed in 2017. Mirror #3 is undergoing front-surface fine grinding and Mirror #5 is undergoing rear-surface fine grinding.

Finally, as you can read below, the Project announced the signing of the contract for the telescope structure (also called the “mount”). After a two-year search, MT Mechatronics and Ingersoll Machine Tools were selected to complete the design and then manufacture the mount, shipping it to the GMT site in Chile in 2025.

We look forward to sharing our progress with you in 2020 and I hope to see many of you at the American Astronomical Society meeting in January.

– Dr. James Fanson, Project Manager

Back to Top

Giant Magellan Telescope signs contract for telescope structure

Profile of the GMT's telescope structure and its foundations. The grey cylinder at the bottom is the telescope pier – the concrete foundations. The widest orange ring designates the observing floor of the enclosure. The grey semi-circular structure above this is known as the C-Ring. The light blue, hexagonal structures are the mirror cells that hold the primary mirrors and their support mechanisms. Finally, at the top of the main truss, the Top End supports the secondary mirror assembly.

Profile of the GMT’s telescope structure and its foundations. The grey cylinder at the bottom is the telescope pier – the concrete foundations. The widest orange ring designates the observing floor of the enclosure. The grey semi-circular structure above this is known as the C-Ring. The light blue, hexagonal structures are the mirror cells that hold the primary mirrors and their support mechanisms. Finally, at the top of the main truss, the Top End supports the secondary mirror assembly. More images here.

In late October, GMTO announced the signing of a contract with German company MT Mechatronics (MTM) and Illinois-based Ingersoll Machine Tools (IMT), to design, build and install the GMT’s telescope structure. The structure alone will weigh 1,800 tons and will hold the GMT’s seven giant mirrors, the scientific instruments, and the secondary mirrors, bringing its total weight to 2,100 tons. This entire mass will float on a film of oil just 50 microns thick, being supported by a number of precisely machined hydrostatic bearings.

The telescope structure will be designed by MT Mechatronics and manufactured, assembled and tested by Ingersoll before being shipped to, and installed at, the GMT observatory site high in the remote Chilean Andes.

MT Mechatronics has over 50 years’ experience with telescopes, beginning with the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia. It was the mount designer for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) in Hawaii.

Since its inception in 1891, Ingersoll Machine Tools Inc. has been an iconic name in the milling machines sector and it has many decades of experience with manufacturing precision steel structures, including recently partnering with MT Mechatronics on the construction of the DKIST telescope mount.

The total value of the telescope structure contract is $135 million and will require nine years of effort by a large workforce of engineers, designers, metal workers and machinists. The structure is expected to be delivered to Chile at the end of 2025 and be ready to accept mirrors in 2028.

The MTM and IMT teams visited GMTO in Pasadena in early November for the first meeting under the contract. This kick-off meeting covered topics such as the design decisions to mitigate seismic risk and the interfaces between the telescope structure and the enclosure.

Engineers and managers from MT Mechatronics, Ingersoll Machine Tools and GMTO.

Engineers and Managers from MT Mechatronics, Ingersoll Machine Tools and GMTO.

Back to Top

7th Annual GMT Community Science Meeting

Attendees at the 7th Annual GMT Community Science Meeting.

Attendees at the 7th Annual GMT Community Science Meeting.

GMTO held its 7th Annual Community Science Meeting on “The Cosmic Baryon Cycle” on September 19-21 in Carlsbad, California. The “baryon cycle” refers to the continuous cycling of gas into galaxies under the force of gravity and out again due to supernova explosions, jets from accreting objects, and other effects. This cycling occurs at all stages of galaxy evolution throughout the history of the universe, governs the rate at which galaxies can form stars, and influences everything about their appearance.

We welcomed over 100 attendees from around the world and all career stages. Many of the talks at the meeting referenced the need for high spatial and spectral resolution observations of galaxies at all redshifts that will be enabled by GMT instruments. Interest in the US Extremely Large Telescope Program was also clear during an extended Q&A session lead by GMT Project Scientist, Dr. Rebecca Bernstein.

We look forward to welcoming the community to the next meeting in September 2020 in Sedona, AZ, on the topic of black holes at all mass scales.

Back to Top

Patrick McCarthy appointed Director of NSF’s OIR Lab

Dr. Patrick McCarthy

Dr. Patrick McCarthy

On October 1, the GMTO’s Vice President Patrick McCarthy transitioned to the prestigious role of Director at the newly formed National Science Foundation’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NSF’s OIR Lab).

Dr. McCarthy has been a member of the GMT project since its inception 15 years ago, helping to bring it from a sketch on a napkin to a 100+ person organization with twelve U.S. and international partners. In 2008, 20 years into his tenure at Carnegie, Dr. McCarthy officially expanded his role when he accepted his current leadership position at GMTO.

Working with then-Carnegie Observatories Director Wendy Freedman, others at Carnegie, and the other GMTO partner organizations, Dr. McCarthy helped marshal the telescope to a preliminary design review in 2014, paving the way for the GMTO Board to secure more than $500 million in initial construction funding from the project’s founding partners in 2015. His single-minded commitment to articulating the scientific need to build the next-generation optical-infrared telescope for the astronomical community has been key to the project’s success to date.

While at NSF’s OIR Lab, Dr. McCarthy continues to advocate for federal investment in the GMT and the Thirty Meter Telescope as part of the US Extremely Large Telescope Program. He is working with the Decadal Survey to support their evaluation of the US ELT Program as part of their process to set priorities for federal investment in astronomy for the coming decade.

GMTO and Carnegie Observatories’ farewell to Pat took place in early November.

GMTO and Carnegie Observatories’ farewell to Pat took place in early November.

Back to Top

Upcoming American Astronomical Society meeting

The Giant Magellan Telescope project will participate in the 235th American Astronomical Society Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii in January as part of the US Extremely Large Telescope Program (US-ELTP). The US-ELTP is a partnership among GMT, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), and NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomical Research Laboratory (NSF’s OIR Lab).

The aim of the US-ELTP is to provide all US scientists with access to the next generation of ground-based optical-infrared telescopes through NSF involvement. Through the US-ELTP, all astronomers in the US would have access to 25% or more of the observing time on both the GMT and the TMT, regardless of their institutional affiliations. This bi-hemispheric, ELT system will enable forefront astrophysical discovery in the global ELT era by enabling US astronomers to execute observations with more nights, greater sky coverage, and a broader suite of instruments than any single observatory could provide.

At the AAS, the US-ELTP will have a booth in the Exhibit Hall and will be holding two community meetings. For those attending the AAS, please join us in room 306AB on Sunday, January 5 at 7:30 pm for a social Open House, and again on Tuesday, January 7 at 10:00 am for presentations on the program, the observatories, and the science.

Back to Top

Mobile Astronomy Lab on the Road in Chile

Students visit the Mobile Astronomy Lab at the 5th Astronomy & Education Outreach Summit in Temuco, Chile.

Students visit the Mobile Astronomy Lab at the 5th Astronomy & Education Outreach Summit in Temuco, Chile.

The first six months of operations of the Chilean Mobile Astronomy Lab, a collaborative project funded by GMTO, EcoScience Foundation, the Embassy of the United States in Chile and the Kavli Foundation, have been a great success.

We visited ten schools and one community science fair in the metropolitan region of Santiago and one astronomy summit in the Araucanía Region – the area where the 2020 total solar eclipse will occur.

More than 2,300 students, from preschool to high school, have been able to experience the innovative science education approach developed by EcoScience Foundation to make astronomy more accessible to underserved communities. In addition, around 130 teachers have had the opportunity to engage in inquiry-based activities with their students and be trained in new strategies for science education in the classroom.

During the 5th Astronomy Education and Outreach Summit, the general public in the Araucanía Region had the opportunity to visit and participate in the Mobile Astronomy Lab’s activities, as well as enjoy a full dome show in the inflatable planetarium donated by the US Embassy. The show projected was “Eclipse, a game of light and shadow”, an original production of the Santiago Planetarium, loaned for free for the summit.

We are now working on the route and activities for the Total Solar Eclipse in December 2020 in the Araucanía and The Lakes Regions. Stay tuned via Facebook and Twitter for more news about our eclipse programming.

Back to Top