Fall 2015

Making Mirrors

Arizona NOW gift impact

The UA is helping to construct a telescope that will have more than six times the light-gathering capability of any telescope to date and will give astronomers the ability to look deeper and more clearly into space than ever before. 

When completed in 2024, the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) will be the largest ground-based telescope in the world. It is currently under construction in Chile’s Atacama Desert. 

A $20 million gift from longtime UA supporter Richard F. Caris guarantees the UA’s continued role as one of 11 institutions working to build the telescope. The UA’s world-renowned mirror lab, recently renamed the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab, is the exclusive manufacturer of eight mirrors for the telescope — each 25 feet in diameter and taking nearly 18 months to create. 

“Funding GMT and bringing that project to a successful conclusion will provide steady production at the mirror lab for the next decade and serve as a proof of concept for future projects,” says Daniel Petrocelli, senior director of development for the College of Science. 

Once complete, the telescope will help astronomers better understand how planets and galaxies form, whether life exists on other planets, the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, and more. 

Long before the telescope is complete, however, work on its mirrors will provide world-class learning experiences. Head of the Department of Astronomy and Director of the Steward Observatory Buell Jannuzi says students and faculty will work collaboratively in a hands-on learning environment. 

Work on the GMT will benefit more than the students directly involved. “As the public sees our achievements, it will give them the confidence to support the disciplines and projects they think are exciting and enable talented researchers and students to undertake similarly large and impactful projects,” Jannuzi says.