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  • richardmitnick 8:37 am on November 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From SPACE.com: “Gigantic* New Telescope Breaking Ground in Chile This Week” 

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    November 09, 2015
    Mike Wall

    Artist’s illustration of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), which will be built atop Las Campanas Peak in Chile. The groundbreaking ceremony for GMT, which will feature seven mirrors arranged to form a light-collecting surface 80 feet (24 meters) wide, is scheduled for Nov. 11, 2015.Credit: Giant Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corporation

    Construction will begin this week on a giant new telescope in the mountains of Chile, and Space.com will be there to take in the milestone moment.

    The groundbreaking ceremony for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) — a huge instrument that astronomers will use to hunt for signs of life in the atmospheres of alien planets, probe the nature of dark energy and dark matter, and tackle other big cosmic questions — is scheduled to occur Wednesday (Nov. 11) at the Las Campanas Observatory in the Chilean Andes.

    The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization invited Space.com Senior Writer Mike Wall to attend the event, and he will provide coverage from onsite.

    When it’s finished, the GMT will consist of seven 27.6-foot-wide (8.4 meters) primary mirrors — the largest single-piece astronomical mirrors ever made — arranged into one light-collecting surface 80 feet (24 m) across, as well as seven smaller secondary mirrors that will change shape to counteract the blurring effects of Earth’s atmosphere. The finished observatory will boast about 10 times the resolving power of NASA’s famous Hubble Space Telescope, GMT officials have said**.

    Four of the 20-ton primary mirrors have already been cast, at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab. All four should be fully polished (a time-consuming, exacting task) and delivered to Las Campanas by late 2021, allowing the telescope to begin science operations around that time, said GMT director Pat McCarthy.

    “That will give us the world’s largest telescope by more than a factor of two at that point,” McCarthy told Space.com in September, shortly after the casting of the fourth mirror had been completed.

    Primary mirrors number five, six and seven will probably be installed at the rate of about one per year after that, bringing the GMT up to full strength around 2024 or so, he added.

    Two other megascopes should also be coming online at about that time — the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which, like GMT, will view the heavens from the Chilean Andes. TMT and E-ELT will combine hundreds of relatively small mirrors to form light-collecting surfaces that measure 98 feet (30 m) and 128 feet (39 m) wide, respectively.



    These three enormous ground-based observatories — along with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in late 2018 — should usher in a sort of astronomy golden age, McCarthy said.

    NASA James Webb Telescope

    “About seven to 10 years from now, there will be observational capabilities that are completely unprecedented,” he said. “I expect we will make a big leap in our understanding [of the cosmos], but I also suspect that we’ll find out that some of the things that we believe now turn out not to be quite correct. Often in science, the more you learn, the more you realize that there’s a lot to learn.”

    • I think that the writer is being over generous here. The GMT will be a 24 meter telescope. The ESO E-ELT will be a 39 meter telescope. The Caltech/UCO/DST/NAOC/NAOJ/NRC/ Thirty Meter Telescope will be just that, 30 meters.

    **This is a silly comparison. Ground based and space based observatories have not a lot in common.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:30 am on June 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ANU: “Australia to play a key role in Giant Magellan Telescope” 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    3 June 2015
    No Writer Credit

    Download as mp4 here.

    Australian scientists and industry will play a key role in an international collaboration to build the world’s most powerful optical telescope after the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) passed a major construction milestone.

    Giant Magellan Telescope
    Giant Magellan Interior

    The 11 international partners, including ANU and Astronomy Australia Limited (AAL), have approved construction of the GMT, unlocking more than US$500 million to start building the first new generation extremely large telescope in Chile.

    When fully operating, the GMT will look further out into space and back in time than any telescope ever built, and will produce images 10 times sharper than those from the Hubble space telescope.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    “The Giant Magellan Telescope will provide astronomers and astrophysicists with the opportunity to truly transform our view of the universe and our place within it,” said Professor Matthew Colless, Director of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) and Vice Chair of the GMT Organization Board.

    The ANU and AAL will have a 10 percent share of the US$1 billion project. That will ensure Australian astronomers and scientists will be able to use the GMT and remain at the forefront of astronomy and astrophysics research.

    “Australian industry will also play a key role in building some of the new high-technology equipment at the heart of the Giant Magellan Telescope,” Professor Colless said.

    “The next generation of optical telescopes such as the GMT demand a new class of astronomical instrumentation and facilities, and the ANU is well equipped to meet this challenge.”

    Professor Colless said the GMT Integral Field Spectograph is being designed and built by ANU researchers and engineers at RSAA. The spectrograph will record spectra from each point across the field of view simultaneously and take full advantage of the telescope’s light-collecting power and high resolution.

    Australian instrument scientists at ANU will also develop and build key elements of the crucial adaptive optics system for the GMT. Adaptive optics remove distortions in images, such as twinkling stars, caused by turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere.

    AAL Chair, Nobel laureate and astrophysicist Professor Brian Schmidt, said the Giant Magellan Telescope would open up a new era in astronomy and allow scientists to look back in time to shortly after the big bang.

    “The Giant Magellan Telescope will help astronomers unlock secrets of the Universe and will herald a new era of discoveries,” Professor Schmidt said.

    AAL’s representative on the GMT Science Advisory Committee, Professor Chris Tinney of the University of New South Wales, said the telescope could help find habitable planets.

    “The GMT will play a leading role in the international race to identify planets orbiting stars near the Sun that could host life and potentially reveal the signatures of biological processes,” he said. “The first years of GMT’s operations will be an incredibly exciting time.”

    Images, video graphics, and a video news release on the Giant Magellan Telescope construction announcement are available at: http://www.gmto.org/gallery.

    Australia’s involvement in the GMT Project has been possible due to a $93 million contribution from the Commonwealth Government through the Education Investment Fund and National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.

    The Giant Magellan Telescope partners are: Astronomy Australia Ltd., The Australian National University, Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard University, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Texas A&M University, The University of Arizona, The University of Chicago, The University of Texas at Austin, and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo.

    See the full article here.

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    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

  • richardmitnick 9:05 pm on May 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    What Do You Know About The Giant Magellan Telescope? 

    Giant Magellan Telescope
    Giant Magellan Telescope

    Q. What is GMT?
    The Giant Magellan Telescope will be one of the next class of super giant earth-based telescopes that promises to revolutionize our view and understanding of the universe. It will be operational in about 10 years and will be located in Chile.

    The GMT has a unique design that offers several advantages. It is a segmented mirror telescope that employs seven of today’s largest stiff monolith mirrors as segments. Six off-axis 8.4 meter or 27-foot segments surround a central on-axis segment, forming a single optical surface with an aperture of 24.5 meters, or 80 feet in diameter. The GMT will have a resolving power 10 times greater than the Hubble Space Telescope. The GMT project is the work of a distinguished international consortium of leading universities and science institutions.

    Q. How will it work?

    Light from the edge of the universe will first reflect off of the seven primary mirrors, then reflect again off of the seven smaller secondary mirrors, and finally, down through the center primary mirror to the advanced CCD (charge coupled device) imaging cameras. There, the concentrated light will be measured to determine how far away objects are and what they are made of.

    The GMT primary mirrors are made at the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab (SOML) in Tucson, Arizona. They are a marvel of modern engineering and glassmaking; each segment is curved to a very precise shape and polished to within a few wavelengths of light – approximately one-millionth of an inch. Although the GMT mirrors will represent a much larger array than any telescope, the total weight of the glass is far less than one might expect. This is accomplished by using a honeycomb mold whereby the finished glass is mostly hollow. The glass mold is placed inside a giant rotating oven where it is “spin cast,” giving the glass a natural parabolic shape. This greatly reduces the amount of grinding required to shape the glass and also reduces weight. Finally, since the giant mirrors are essentially hollow, they can be cooled with fans to help equalize them to the night air temperature, thus minimizing distortion from heat.

    One of the most sophisticated engineering aspects of the telescope is what is known as “adaptive optics.” The telescope’s secondary mirrors are actually flexible. Under each secondary mirror surface, there are hundreds of actuators that will constantly adjust the mirrors to counteract atmospheric turbulence. These actuators, controlled by advanced computers, will transform twinkling stars into clear steady points of light. It is in this way that the GMT will offer images that are 10 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

    The location of the GMT also offers a key advantage in terms of seeing through the atmosphere. Located in one of the highest and driest locations on earth, Chile’s Atacama Desert, the GMT will have spectacular conditions for more than 300 nights a year. Las Campanas Peak (“Cerro Las Campanas”), where the GMT will be located, has an altitude of over 2,550 meters or approximately 8,500 feet. The site is almost completely barren of vegetation due to lack of rainfall. The combination of seeing, number of clear nights, altitude, weather and vegetation make Las Campanas Peak an ideal location for the GMT.

    The GMT will be built on a peak in the Andes Mountains at 8,500 feet near several existing telescope facilities at Las Campanas, Chile. The Las Campanas Observatory (LCO) location was selected for its high altitude, dry climate, dark skies, and unsurpassed seeing quality, as well as its access to the southern sky. Las Campanas Peak (“Cerro Las Campanas”), one of many peaks within LCO, has an altitude of over 2,550 meters (approximately 8,500 feet).

    The GMT project is in the fortunate position of having clear access to an already developed site: road access, water, electrical power and communications are already in place. The site has a long history of excellent performance. Light pollution is negligible and likely to remain so for decades to come. The weather pattern has been stable for more than 30 years. There are also many interesting objects that are primarily visible from the southern hemisphere such as the large and small Magellanic clouds, which are our closest neighboring galaxies, and our own galactic center.

    Q. Why is it being built?

    Most people do not realize that, as recently as 100 years ago, scientists thought the Milky Way was the entire universe.

    “The essence of our species is to explore — to find new answers and new meaning for who we are.”

    • Pat McCarthy, Director GMT

    But in the 1920s, Edwin Hubble, using the famous 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson, determined that there were other galaxies too. That discovery was followed by the realization that the universe was expanding. These discoveries revolutionized our view of the universe. The heavens were not static, as had been assumed, but changing over time. Like the 100-inch telescope, perhaps the most exciting and intriguing fact is that the Giant Magellan Telescope promises to make discoveries that we cannot yet imagine.

    Mount Wilson Telescope

    Perhaps one of the most exciting questions yet to be answered is: are we alone? The Giant Magellan Telescope may help us answer that. Finding evidence of life on other planets would be a momentous discovery–certainly one of the greatest in the history of human exploration. But taking pictures of these so called “extrasolar” planets, which orbit other stars, is extraordinarily difficult. In addition to the vast distance–the very closest star to earth is four light-years away–the biggest problem is the glare of the host star which blocks out most of the reflected light of a small distant planet.

    This is why the great collecting area of the GMT is so important. The GMT mirrors will collect more light than any telescope ever built and the resolution will be the best ever achieved.

    This unprecedented light gathering ability and resolution will help with many other fascinating questions in 21st century astronomy. How did the first galaxies form? What are dark matter and dark energy that comprise most of our universe? How did stellar matter from the Big Bang congeal into what we see today? What is the fate of the universe?

    More information about GMT’s Scientific Objectives is available here.

    GMT Science Instruments

    The GMTO Board of Directors has adopted an instrument development plan that follows the recommendations of the GMT Instrument Development Advisory Panel. Instrument development will be staged to match the technical development of the telescope and its adaptive optics system. Currently we are moving forward with four instruments and one facility fiber positioning system, summarized below. The summaries link to more information and related publications.

    Visible Echelle Spectrograph – G-CLEF
    A high resolution, highly stable, fiber-fed visible light Echelle spectrograph well suited to precision radial velocity observations, investigations in stellar astrophysics and studies of the intergalactic medium. G-CLEF will operate from 350nm to 950nm with spectral resolutions ranging from 25,000 to 120,000.

    Visible Multi-Object Spectrograph – GMACS
    A high throughput, general purpose multi-object spectrograph optimized for observations of very faint objects. GMACS will be used for studies of galaxy evolution, evolution of the IGM and circumstellar matter, and studies of resolved stellar populations, among other applications.

    Near-IR IFU and Adaptive Optics Imager – GMTIFS
    A general purpose, AO-fed near-infrared (0.9 to 2.5 microns) integral field spectrograph and adaptive optics imager. The IFU mode will support multiple spaxel scales with spectral resolutions of 5,000 or 10,000.

    IR Echelle Spectrograph – GMTNIRS
    An AO-fed high-resolution, 1-5 micron narrow-field spectrograph aimed at studies of pre-main sequence objects, extrasolar planets, debris disks, and other mid-IR targets. The baseline configuration provides spectral resolutions ranging from 50,000 to 100,000.

    Facility Fiber Optics Positioner – MANIFEST

    A facility fiber positioning system that covers GMT’s full corrected 20 arcmin field of view. MANIFEST can feed G-CLEF and GMACS simultaneously with fiber bundles that may be configured to increase spectroscopic multiplexing, spectral resolution, and other scientific capabilities.

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    • Maril 9:11 am on May 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      It is rather mind blowing to realize that we so recently thought the Milky Way was everything.


  • richardmitnick 7:39 pm on August 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Giant Magellan Telescope   

    About the Giant Magellan Telescope: “GMT third mirror successfully cast in Arizona” 

    Giant Magellan Telescope
    Giant Magellan Telescope

    August 26, 2013

    Professor Bob Kirshner celebrates the successful casting of the third of seven mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope which the Dean of FAS, Michael Smith, has just approved as a major funding-raising focus for the University. The casts are made under the University of Arizona football stadium overseen by the Steward Observatory there.

    Each casting of the more than 80 foot mirrors takes months of preparation followed by even longer to polish the surface to an accuracy of 1/1000 of a human hair.

    Kirshner is photographed next to an ice sculpture showing the honeycomb construction used in casting mirrors of this size.

    See the full article here.

    The Giant Magellan Telescope will be one of the next class of super giant earth-based telescopes that promises to revolutionize our view and understanding of the universe. It will be operational in about 10 years and will be located in Chile.

    The GMT has a unique design that offers several advantages. It is a segmented mirror telescope that employs seven of today’s largest stiff monolith mirrors as segments. Six off-axis 8.4 meter or 27-foot segments surround a central on-axis segment, forming a single optical surface with an aperture of 24.5 meters, or 80 feet in diameter. The GMT will have a resolving power 10 times greater than the Hubble Space Telescope. The GMT project is the work of a distinguished international consortium of leading universities and science institutions.


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