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The enclosure will house enormous mirrors crafted at Steward Observatory’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab, and will enable some of the most important scientific discoveries of our lifetimes.

Giant Magellan Telescope Enclosure Ready for Construction

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) and IDOM today announced that the telescope’s enclosure, set to be one of the world’s largest astronomical facilities, passed its final design review and is now ready for construction in Chile. The review marks a major milestone for the telescope, which is now 40% under construction. This also marks an important year for Steward Observatory, as a founding partner in the international consortium for the GMT. On October 6, 2024, fabrication commenced on the seventh and final primary mirror at UArizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab. These events put the GMT on track to be operational by the early 2030s.

“A team of ten international subject matter experts validated two years of design work by IDOM and the Giant Magellan Telescope. The final design of the enclosure is unique and an important feat of technical management, design, and engineering. We are very grateful for the committee’s professional assessment as we proceed towards construction,” said Bruce Bigelow, the Site Infrastructure, Enclosure, and Facilities Manager for the Giant Magellan Telescope. “We’re also incredibly excited to be moving towards the procurement stage, where we will begin soliciting proposals to begin construction.”

Once completed, the 65-meter-tall enclosure will be one of the largest mechanized buildings ever constructed and will represent a true feat of modern engineering and precision manufacturing. At over 5,000 metric tons, the enclosure will be able to complete a full rotation in four minutes and be equipped with 46-meter-tall shutter doors that reveal the 25.4-meter telescope for unobstructed scientific observations. The smart building is cleverly designed to control the telescope’s operating environment by protecting seven of the world’s largest mirrors as they track celestial objects across the sky more than a billion light years away.

Following the successful conceptual design of the European Southern Observatory’s Extremely Large Telescope dome, IDOM continues to make important contributions to the design of astronomical facilities with the Giant Magellan Telescope—built by an American-led international consortium of 14 universities and research institutions. The breadth of talent afforded by the consortium is stimulating America’s economy with construction, testing, and design work on the telescope in 36 states.

“We formed a strong and productive partnership with IDOM as the enclosure designer. Their well-known architectural accomplishments combined with their engineering expertise in large and complex movable structures has been critical to the design of this unique structure,” said Giant Magellan Project Manager William Burgett. “The dedication and attention to detail that the IDOM team has demonstrated has been instrumental on our way to becoming one of the most powerful ground-based telescopes in the world.”

IDOM began developing the Giant Magellan Telescope enclosure design over two years ago following a competitive, global search and extensive evaluation process.

“Our team approached the challenge of the Giant Magellan Telescope enclosure knowing that this structure would be responsible for enabling some of the most important scientific discoveries of our lifetimes,” said IDOM North American President Tom Lorentz. “We are proud to have delivered a successful design and look forward to the Giant Magellan Telescope’s success.”

Construction of the telescope components housed within the enclosure are advancing rapidly. For example, over the past year, fabrication commenced on the seventh and final primary mirror in Arizona, while manufacturing of the 39-meter-tall mount structure began in Illinois. Other advancements include near completion of the telescope’s first adaptive secondary mirror and significant progress on a suite of high-resolution imagers and spectrographs in Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Texas.

These optical technologies will enable the Giant Magellan to boast a remarkable tenfold increase in resolution compared to the Hubble Space Telescope and deliver up to 200 times the power of today’s best telescopes. The breakthrough technologies will empower scientists worldwide, offering unparalleled insights into the evolution of the Universe, the origins of chemical elements, and the discovery of life on distant exoplanets for the first time.

With the enclosure design milestone complete, the Giant Magellan Telescope is now preparing a global search for a firm to leave their mark on the future of astronomy with construction of the enclosure.

About IDOM                                                          

IDOM is a privately held, global engineering, architecture, and consulting firm, with more than 5,000 employees and 46 offices around the world. Headquartered in Bilbao, Spain, IDOM has U.S. locations in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Houston and Rochester, NY. To learn more about IDOM, visit idom.com/en.

About Giant Magellan Telescope

The Giant Magellan Telescope is the future of space exploration from Earth. Using seven of the world’s largest mirrors, the 25.4-meter telescope will produce the most detailed images ever taken of our Universe. It will uncover the cosmic mysteries of dark matter, investigate the origins of chemical elements, and verify signs of life on distant planets for the first time. Giant Magellan is the work of the GMTO Corporation, an international consortium of 14 universities and research institutions representing the United States, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Israel, South Korea, and Taiwan. The telescope is being built in America and will be reassembled and completed in Chile by the early 2030s. The Universe Awaits at giantmagellan.org.

Tribal leaders capped off the summit with a trip to Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter for an evening of stargazing – and a quick tutorial from SkyCenter staff on how to see the "green flash" through binoculars just as the sun is setting.

Native American representatives gather with UArizona leaders for third Tribal Leaders Summit

Tribal leaders from across the state gathered at the University of Arizona Monday to meet with campus leaders and discuss ways to strengthen partnerships between the university and tribal communities in Arizona.

The event, hosted by the university's Office of Native American Initiatives and Tribal Engagementwas the third Tribal Leaders Summit the university has held since 2021.

After the meeting sessions on campus, tribal leaders were shuttled to the university's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, where they spent the evening atop Mount Lemmon stargazing through telescopes and hearing from university astronomers about discoveries made at the site.

The evening on the mountain capped a day of mutual learning.

"When we're given opportunities to create new partnerships, it's so important to take advantage of them and to be in close proximity and have dialogue with people at the university," said Rocha, the Eller alumnus and Yavapai-Apache Nation member. "It's so important for each of us to get that learning opportunity with one another."

Read the full article here.

CatSat is a student-run project involving NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, Freefall Aerospace, the University of Arizona, and Rincon Research Corporation in Tucson, Arizona.

CatSat's launch date approaches!

CatSat is atechnology demonstration of an inflatable antenna for high-speed communications.  The “Ah-ha” moment for the antenna technology came to the CatSat principal investigator when Chris Walker took a pause while making chocolate pudding and covered the pot with plastic wrap. Later he noticed an image of an overhanging light bulb was being created by reflections off the concave plastic wrap which had been pulled in by the cooling of air in the pot.

This observation eventually led to the Large Balloon Reflector, an inflatable technology  that creates large collecting  apertures that weigh a fraction of today’s deployable antennas. CatSat’s deployable antenna consists of a Mylar balloon. The front half of the balloon is transparent, allowing microwaves to pass through. The back half of the balloon is aluminized, creating a reflecting antenna.

After reaching low Earth orbit, CatSat’s antenna will deploy and inflate to a diameter of just over one-and-a-half feet CatSat’s demonstration will be to transmit high-definition Earth photos to X-band ground stations at ~50 megabits per sec, more than ~5 times faster than typical home internet speeds. In addition to images, data about the structure of the Earth’s ionosphere will be gathered by listening-in to thousands of beacons from ground-based ham radio stations.

A team of astronomers studying JADES data identified about 80 objects (circled in green) that changed in brightness over time. Most of these objects, known as transients, are the result of exploding stars or supernovae.

UArizona graduate student and team discover most distant supernovas ever found

Peering deeply into the cosmos, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is giving scientists their first detailed glimpse of supernovas from a time when the universe was young.

A team using JWST data has identified 10 times more supernovas in the early universe than were previously known. A few of the newfound exploding stars are the most distant examples of their type, including those used to measure the universe's expansion rate.

"Webb is a supernova discovery machine," said Christa DeCoursey, a University of Arizona graduate student in the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory who led the research. "The sheer number of detections, plus the great distances to these supernovae, are the two most exciting outcomes from our survey."

DeCoursey presented the findings this week at a press conference at the 244th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Madison, Wisconsin.

Read the full article here.

The Steward Observatory-managed Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham is the only one of its kind, with two 27-foot mirrors mounted side by side. A powerful adaptive optics system compensates for blurring introduced by atmospheric turbulence, making it one of the most powerful Earth-based observatories in the world.

Glimpses of a volcanic world: New LBT images of Jupiter's moon Io rival those from spacecraft

New images of Jupiter's volcano-studded moon Io, taken by the Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham in Arizona, offer the highest resolution of Io ever achieved with an Earth-based instrument. The observations were made possible by a new high-contrast optical imaging instrument, dubbed SHARK-VIS, and the telescope's adaptive optics system, which compensates for the blurring induced by atmospheric turbulence. 

The images, to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, reveal surface features as small as 50 miles across, a spatial resolution that until now had been achievable only with spacecraft sent to Jupiter. This is equivalent to taking a picture of a dime-sized object from 100 miles away, according to the research team. SHARK-VIS allowed the researchers to identify a major resurfacing event around Pele, one of Io's most prominent volcanoes. According to the paper's first author, Al Conrad, the eruptions on Io, the most volcanically active body in the solar system, dwarf their contemporaries on Earth.

"Io, therefore, presents a unique opportunity to learn about the mighty eruptions that helped shape the surfaces of the Earth and the moon in their distant pasts," said Conrad, associate staff scientist at the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory. The Large Binocular Telescope, or LBT, is part of Mount Graham International Observatory, a division of the University of Arizona Steward Observatory

Conrad added that studies like this one will help researchers understand why some worlds in the solar system are volcanic but not others. They also may someday shed light on volcanic worlds in exoplanet systems around nearby stars.

Read (or listen to!) the full story here.

This infrared image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was taken by the onboard Near-Infrared Camera for the JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey, or JADES, program. The NIRCam data was used to determine which galaxies to study further with spectroscopic observations. One such galaxy, JADES-GS-z14-0 (shown in the pullout), was determined to be at a redshift of 14.3, making it the current record-holder for most distant known galaxy. This corresponds to a time less than 300 million years after the big bang. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Brant Robertson (UC Santa Cruz), Ben Johnson (CfA), Sandro Tacchella (Cambridge), Marcia Rieke (University of Arizona), Daniel Eisenstein (CfA), Phill Cargile (CfA)

James Webb Space Telescope spots the two most distant galaxies ever seen at cosmic dawn

When Kevin Hainline saw the data on his screen, he jumped up from his desk, startled by what he saw. In January 2023, Hainline – an associate research professor in the University of Arizona Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory – was the first person to ever lay eyes on the galaxies JADES GS-z14-0 and the slightly less distant GS-z14-1. At the time of their discovery, these galaxies were merely two candidates among the hundreds Hainline had discovered, each one requiring careful follow-up observation to help confirm their extreme distances. Months later, standing over his desk, he had data confirming that the international team of astronomers working on the James Webb Space Telescope Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey, or JADES, had actually found the two most distant galaxies ever seen by humans. Read the article here!

Buell Jannuzi, Head of the Department of Astronomy and Director of Steward Observatory, receives the 2024 Distinguished Head/Director’s Award from the University of Arizona

Steward Observatory’s Buell Jannuzi wins UArizona’s Distinguished Head/Director’s Award

This week, Buell Jannuzi, Head of the Department of Astronomy and Director of Steward Observatory, receives University of Arizona’s Distinguished Head/Director’s Award, an honor that reflects his abilities as a leader to engender trust, foster collaboration, and recruit and retain a diverse community of high-achieving staff, students and faculty.

"We are extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated and effective leader for Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy,” said Regents’ Professor George Rieke. “In a limited-funding, highly-constrained environment he has, nevertheless, managed to extend and expand the ambition of the faculty and staff of the department and increase our global reach and impact.”

The Distinguished Head/Director’s Award was created in 2021—an award underpinned by UArizona’s values of integrity, compassion, exploration, adaptation, inclusion, and determination. The quality and reputation of the University of Arizona has been significantly raised by contributions of those heads and directors whose vision, courage, standards, and effectiveness have been transformative. This award recognizes such uncommon performance, calling attention to individuals whose leadership and management has raised the standards, expectations, and reputation of the unit as a whole, or who have otherwise brought excellence, innovation, and high ethical standards to the art of being a unit head or director.

“The challenge of leading Steward Observatory is immense,” said Rieke. “Its scale is on a par with the major observatories in the world, most of which are sponsored by national governments or well-endowed foundations.” In over a decade of directorship, Jannuzi has seen the University of Arizona rank in the top 10 space-science programs worldwide, and second among US public institutions (U.S. News and World’s 2021 report). Under his leadership, Steward Observatory was a founding member of the Event Horizon Telescope Consortium—creating the world’s first ever image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy—and led in the development of two major instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Huge advances are expected as construction continues on the $2B Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), soon to be the largest optical telescope on earth, equipped with enormous mirrors crafted on the UArizona campus at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab.

“This level of success is the result of the dedication and excellence of over 400 individuals at Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy,” said Rieke. “Buell is both an enabler of those seeking challenging, high-risk/high-reward opportunities, and in positioning Steward Observatory for leadership going forward. Buell has realized that a light hand on the tiller, with intervention and support when needed, leaves the most room for the faculty and staff to succeed."

This month marks 12 years of Jannuzi’s service as Director/Head, during which time the department has thrived and grown. Steward Observatory is unique in its span, including large ground-based observing facilities, leadership in space-based instrumentation and satellite missions, development of detector technology, manufacturing of the world’s largest telescope mirrors, stewardship of large graduate and undergraduate programs, and a large general education mission that ranges from pursuit of research into science education to professionalized public outreach programs.

The Steward Observatory community celebrates Buell’s well-earned award and trusts that his leadership will continue to lift the department toward new successes—indeed, said Rieke, “the trust he engenders is, in fact, Buell’s greatest asset.”

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