$205M investment accelerates construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope

Illustration of the Giant Magellan Telescope. Credit: Giant Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corporation

3 min read

The Giant Magellan Telescope, the most powerful telescope ever engineered using the world’s largest mirrors, has secured a $205 million investment from its international consortium to accelerate construction. The investment marks one of the largest funding rounds for the telescope and includes leading commitments from Harvard University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Arizona, and the University of Chicago.

The latest investment will be used to manufacture the giant 12-story telescope structure at Ingersoll Machine Tools in Illinois, to continue progress on the telescope’s seven primary mirrors at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab in Arizona, and to build one of the most advanced scientific spectrograph instruments in Texas.

“We are honored to receive this investment in our future,” says Robert Shelton, president of Giant Magellan Telescope. “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.”

The funding comes after the National Academy of Sciences Astro2020 Decadal Survey evaluated the Giant Magellan Telescope as a core partner of the United States Extremely Large Telescope Program. Astro2020 ranked the program a top priority and “absolutely essential if the United States is to maintain a position as a leader in ground-based astronomy.”

“The GMT will revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos through innovative new technology combined with a world class site in Chile,” says Lisa Kewley, director of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, one of the founding institutions behind the telescope’s construction. “The telescope will answer some of humankind’s biggest questions about the first stars, the first galaxies, the secrets of dark matter and dark energy, and extrasolar planets suitable for life.”

“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,” says Eric Isaacs, president of Carnegie Institution for Science. “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.”

The Giant Magellan Telescope is under construction at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and will allow astronomers to see farther into space with more detail than any other optical telescope before. The Giant Magellan Telescope will have 10x the light collecting area and 4x the spatial resolution of James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and will be up to 200x more powerful than existing research telescopes.