Giant Magellan Telescope w/ Dr. Patrick McCarthy #043

giant magellan telescope header

Today we had the privilege to discuss the Giant Magellan Telescope with Project Lead and Interim President, Dr. Patrick McCarthy. Dr. McCarthy shed a lot of light on what is involved in a project of this scope, what kind of scientific advances are likely to occur, as well as general information about how telescopes of all types actually work.

 

  • Why another telescope? We have so many. What is the Giant Magellan Telescope bringing that we haven’t had before?
    • Greater resolution through larger aperture
  • What are the big goals we hope to achieve with the Giant Magellan Telescope?
    • Distant galaxy observation (closer to the big bang)
    • Observing planets orbiting nearby stars
    • Identify planets with the chemical signatures of life
  • A recent report suggests that there is a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, and that it might have liquid water. Could the Giant Magellan Telescope help us find out more?
  • How much of an optical compromise do earth-based telescopes experience compared to space-based? Or do they?
  • The mirrors are polished to 1 millionth of an inch. How do natural forces impact such a fine tolerance (i.e. shifting tectonic plates or even earthquakes, gravity, atmospheric pressure, ambient temperature, or even people walking by)?
    • Adaptive optics
  • Why this specific location in Chile?
  • The Giant Magellan Telescope is described the first of a new class of “Extremely Large Telescopes.” Is there a specific definition for ELTs?
  • Can you describe how the GMT will gather light via the mirror array, etc.?
    • Primary mirrors
    • Secondary mirrors
    • Final mirror
    • CCD
  • The mirrors are asymmetric. Why so?
  • The Giant Magellan Telescope has 7 massive mirrors, while the Thirty Meter Telescope and European Extremely Large Telescope were designed with hundreds of smaller mirrors. Why the choice of 7 large mirrors for GMT?
  • Can the system be upgraded over time, for instance a better CCD?
  • Aside from the visible spectrum, what else will the GMT see?
  • What other scientific instruments will be installed at the GMT complex?
  • How long before the GMT is operational?
  • How is the construction phase funded?
  • Once the GMT is up and running, how will it be funded?
  • Is there still room for other institutions to be involved?
  • Last question. In your opinion, are we alone?

For more info about the Giant Magellan Telescope project, head on over to http://www.gmto.org/!

Outro

We hope you learned something today on CoT. If you like what we’re doing, please share this podcast with your friends, rate us on iTunes, and send us some upvotes in the /r/citizensoftech subreddit. Until we show up in your podcatcher again, visit citizensoftech.com, where you can become a Patreon patron.

Now go outside, tilt your head up, and stare at the stars. Unless there’s only one really bright one in the sky. In that case, avert your gaze.

 

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