Giant Magellan Telescope design wins approval

20 February 2014

Construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) has moved one step closer after the project passed two major expert reviews over its design and construction.

The two reviews now clear the way for the project to proceed towards construction approval.

The Australian National University (ANU) is one of the global partners in the project to build the Giant Magellan Telescope, which will have a collection area six times the area of the largest telescopes today. It will provide clear images of planets around other stars and the most distant galaxies in the Universe.

"The Giant Magellan Telescope project has been building up to this point over several years," said Director of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Matthew Colless, who is also Vice Chair of the GMT Board.

"It can now proceed to construction, which we hope will begin later this year."

The telescope will explore the Universe in the first billion years after the big bang, and probe the mysteries of dark matter, dark energy and black holes.

During a week-long review last month, an international panel of experts examined and approved the telescope's design. A subsequent review also examined and approved the cost estimates for the project.

The milestone caps off an exciting period for the University, with the recent discovery of the oldest star in the Universe, dating back to the second generation of stars ever formed.

"The Giant Magellan Telescope will provide the tools for future generations of ANU astronomers to make equally exciting and important discoveries," said Colless.

As part of the GMT project, ANU is also building two key components that will allow the telescope to take images 10 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

ANU received $88.1 million from the Education Investment Fund to support Australia's involvement in the GMT.

The GMT is a consortium between ANU, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard University, the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, the Smithsonian Institution, Texas A&M University, the University of Arizona, the University of Chicago, and the University of Texas.

The GMT will be built at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and is due to be operating by 2020.