Clear Skies Ahead

The Giant Magellan is currently under construction at our Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, one of the best places on Earth to build a telescope.

First Light

The Giant Magellan is expected to begin observation within the next decade.

Is there life on other planets in our galaxy? How did the first stars form? What are dark matter and dark energy? How do galaxies change over time? Where do the building blocks of matter originate? What is the ultimate fate of our universe?

For millions of years, humanity has looked to the night sky with a sense of awe—our imaginations engaged by the beauty and the vastness of space. From revealing fundamental physics underpinning the cosmos to advancing our ability to study the atmospheres of distant worlds, the Giant Magellan Telescope stands poised to provide insights into some of humanity's biggest questions and ring in a renaissance of ground-based astronomy.

Carnegie Commitment

From the establishment of the Mount Wilson Observatory in 1904 to the contemporary development of the Giant Magellan Telescope, Carnegie Science has stood at the forefront of pioneering astronomical research and telescope construction for well over a century. Anchored in a legacy of constructing and harnessing state-of-the-art observatories, our scientists stretch the limits of human understanding, unveiling the mysteries of the cosmos through constant innovation and unbridled exploration.

The conception of the Giant Magellan Telescope took root within the halls of the Carnegie Science Observatories in the early 2000s before blossoming into the global collaboration we see today. As the Giant Magellan moves closer to its inaugural light, Carnegie Science and its dedicated researchers continue to play a leading role in the telescope's development. Our role extends from providing the prime site at the Las Campanas Observatory to shaping the Giant Magellan's scientific and technological trajectory and assuming a pioneering stance in garnering philanthropic support.

GMT Leadership at Carnegie

GMT Rendering | Giant Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corporation

The Universe in HD

The Giant Magellan is expected to be 10x sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope, have 4x the spatial resolution of the James Webb Space Telescope, and be 200 times more powerful than any ground-based telescope currently in existence.

The Giant Magellan gets its viewing power from seven 8.4-meter mirrors arranged like petals on a flower. This configuration provides a total collecting area that's equivalent to a single mirror with a diameter of 25.4 meters. This larger collecting area allows the Giant Magellan to gather more light and produce higher-resolution images, enabling scientists to observe the universe in greater detail than ever before. 

Star Trails from GMT Site

Under Southern Skies

The Giant Magellan Telescope is under construction at the Carnegie Science Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The dark skies and extremely low humidity make the Chilean high Atacama Desert region one of the best places on Earth for telescopes. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, astronomers will be able to observe the center of the Milky Way, the nearest supermassive black hole, the closest planet Proxima Centauri b, the Magellanic Clouds, and much more. 

The site at Las Campanas is 2,514 meters above sea level. The high altitude, low moisture, and calm winds mean astronomers can count on low atmospheric interference. The adaptive secondary mirrors clean what's left of any atmospheric light distortion before sending the signal to the telescope's scientific instruments. 

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Giant Magellan Enabled Science

Cross section rendering of the telescope enclosure, pier, and mount. Image credit: Giant Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corporation.

Innovative Instrumentation

The light from the telescope will be fed into scientific instruments—a suite of cameras and spectrographs—which will allow scientists to capture, study, and record it at wavelengths from the near-UV to the mid-infrared and to study objects from our own Solar System to the furthest visible reaches of the universe.

These innovative tools will allow astrophysicists to unravel the mysteries of dark matter, dark energy, black holes, and the Big Bang. It will also greatly enhance the search for life on other planets, as the Giant Magellan will be capable of detecting Earth-sized planets and key biosignatures—including oxygen.

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GMT Updates

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Community Effort

The Giant Magellan Telescope is more than just a telescope; it’s a global scientific collaboration with institutional partners in Australia, Brazil, South Korea, Israel, the United States, and Chile. 

The project started as a twinkle in the eye of astronomers at the Carnegie Science Observatories in the early 2000s to address the instrumentation needs of the scientific community. In 2004, an initial group of scientists and engineers from Carnegie Science, Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, and the University of Arizona worked together to develop the initial concept for an extremely large telescope. 

In 2009 the group founded GMTO—a consortium of thirteen international academic and research institutions united by a shared commitment to construct the most expansive and sophisticated optical telescope ever conceived. With these institutions at the helm, GMTO will execute the design, construction, and operation of the telescope.

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Extreme Telescopes, Extreme Priority

The US Extremely Large Telescope program (US-ELTP) is a joint initiative to provide the entire US astronomical community with access to the Giant Magellan Telescope in the Southern Hemisphere and the Thirty Meter Telescope in the Northern Hemisphere. 

In late 2021, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine ranked the Giant Magellan—as part of the US-ELTP program—as the top strategic priority for ground-based telescopes, recommending federal support to complete its construction. The recommendation emphasized that building an extremely large telescope “is absolutely essential if the United States is to maintain a position as a leader in ground-based astronomy.”

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Resources and Media

Downloadable Resources