The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) will be operational in 2017 and construction site is on top of a mountain in Chiles’ remote desert. The GMT project is the work of a distinguished international consortium of leading universities and science institutions to include Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
A segmented mirror telescope employs seven segments to form a single optical surface with a collecting area of 24.5 meters (80 feet) primary mirror with unprecedented sensitivity plus the largest monolith earthbound mirrors 10 times greater than the Hubble Space Telescope.
During the 20th century, astrophysics evolved from a largely phenomenological science into a vibrant branch of physics; therefore, promising to probe regions of space beyond the reach of any conceivable laboratory equipment or particle accelerator.
In astronomy, Galileo used the telescope and fundamentally changed the view of the cosmos. After endeavors into other regions were through the electromagnetic spectrum via Herschel, Reber, Giaconni, and others exposed celestial objects and processes never anticipated or remotely understood.
As we begin the 21st Century, we are on the threshold of a new era of astrophysics. The cosmological world model is determined with great accuracy; therefore, we are excitingly close to viewing the era of the Big Bang.
The five areas identified in the study are:
1) Deciding the large-scale properties of the Universe with the distribution and nature of its matter & energy
2) Understanding the Big Bang and the dawn of the modern Universe including the first stars and galaxies
3) Understanding the formation and evolution, including the discovery of the different types of black holes
4) Examining the actual formation of stars and planets
5) Understanding the impact of the astronomical environment on the Earth
“The science opportunities for this telescope are extraordinary,” observes astronomer and GMT Acting Director Patrick McCarthy. “It will shed light not only upon the nature of the Universe but also on the fundamental laws of physics that govern its evolution.”
Only 100 years ago, scientists thought the Milky Way was the entire universe. In 1920, Edwin Hubble, using a famous 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson, California determined the presence of other galaxies and the universe was expanding.
These discoveries revolutionized our view of the universe. The heavens were not static, but changing over time. Including the evolving 100-inch telescope, perhaps the most exciting fact is that the Giant Magellan Telescope promises to make discoveries we cannot yet imagine.