Tag Archives: GMT

Ground-breaking for the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile

Even as construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii remains stalled because of protesters, ground has now been broken in Chile for the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).

The unique design of the telescope combines seven of the largest mirrors that can be manufactured, each 8.4 meters (27 feet) across, to create a single telescope effectively 25 meters or 85 feet in diameter. The giant mirrors are being developed at the University of Arizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory. Each mirror must be polished to an accuracy of 25 nanometers or one millionth of an inch.

One giant mirror has been polished to meet its exacting specifications. Three others are being processed, and production of the additional mirrors will be started at the rate of one per year. The telescope will begin early operations with these first mirrors in 2021, and the telescope is expected to reach full operational capacity within the next decade.

Assuming TMT ever gets built, it will, unlike GMT, be made up of many small segments.

GMT about to begin construction

Forget the TMT! The consortium building the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) have secured the half billion dollars of funding required to begin construction in Chile.

Unlike Hawaii, Chile’s population welcomes astronomers and telescopes, so don’t expect any of those kinds of political problems getting this telescope finished.

The first mirror for the Giant Magellan Telescope has been completed.

The first mirror for the Giant Magellan Telescope has been completed.

This is the first of seven. It is also the largest single mirror ever polished, at 8.4 meters, or 27.5 feet across. When completed the GMT’s segmented mirror will be 25 meters across, or more than 82 feet.

The Giant Magellan Telescope project has decided it will not participate in a funding competition offered by the National Science Foundation.

The 24.5 meter Giant Magellan Telescope project (GMT) has decided it is not interested in competing for funds offered by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

With just US$1.25 million available to the winner, the NSF competition was less about money and more about prestige. The NSF has been adamant that it has no significant money to support either project until the early part of next decade. But the Thirty Meter Telescope, which will still respond to the NSF’s solicitation, believed that a competition would at least demonstrate the NSF’s intention to eventually support one project — and that the winner would have an easier time attracting international partners.

But the GMT says it can go it alone, at least for now. On 23 March, the group began blasting at its mountaintop site in Chile. And they say they are nearly halfway towards raising the $700 million they need to complete construction.

If the GMT has already raised almost $350 million without NSF support, it makes perfect sense for them to thumb their noses at this piddling funding from the NSF, especially since the bureaucratic cost of getting that money will probably be far more than $1.25 million.

The National Science Foundation has declined until 2020 to commit to funding a giant American-built ground-based telescope

Bad news for American astronomy: The National Science Foundation has declined until 2020 to commit to any funding for either one of the two giant American-built ground-based telescopes.

For nearly a decade now, two university consortia in the United States have been in a race to build two ground-based telescopes that would be several times bigger than today’s biggest optical telescope. One group—led by the University of California—plans to build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii. The other team—led by Carnegie Observatories, the University of Arizona, and other institutions—is developing a 28-meter behemoth named the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), which would be built in Chile. Over the past few years, both teams have raised tens of millions of dollars toward the billion-dollar-plus projects in the hope that the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) would come up with the balance.

But now, it turns out, neither project has a chance of receiving any significant funding from NSF for at least another decade. In a solicitation posted by NSF last week, the agency indicated that it does not expect to fund the building of any giant segmented mirror telescopes—that is, TMT or GMT—until the beginning of the 2020s. According to the solicitation, all that NSF can provide right now is $1.25 million over 5 years for the development of a public-private partnership plan that could eventually lead to the building of a large telescope, should NSF be in a position to fund such a telescope sometime in the next decade.

I suspect the NSF’s unwillingness to fund this project at this time is directly related to the budget crisis in Washington. Though the NSF got slightly more money in 2012 than in 2011, that money is all accounted for by other projects. There is no margin for anything new that will be as expensive (in the billions) as these giant telescopes will be.

Private citizen commits $25 million for Giant Magellan Telescope

Private citizen has just donated $25 million for the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope.

This is how it used to be done all the time: All the early giant telescopes built in the United States before World War II were financed by individuals or private foundations, with no or little government investment.