The Astrophysical Society and the Union Speakers Forum have joined together to host a lecture titled “Astronomy on the Cutting Edge: The Giant Magellan Telescope.” The speaker is Carolyn Porter, a director of development for the McDonald Observatory, who focuses on advancing key philanthropic and scientific relationships for the Giant Magellan Telescope. The lecture will be held on Monday, April 25, at 3 p.m. in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies auditorium.

Carolyn Porter

Carolyn Porter

According to the McDonald Observatory, when built in 2021, the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) will become the world’s largest telescope and will provide opportunities designed to answer humanity’s most important questions about its place in the universe. The GMT will seek clarity to the questions “What are dark matter and dark energy? Are we alone in the universe? Where do we come from?”

The telescope is designed to create the clearest images of the far reaches of the universe. It will stand over 22 stories tall and weigh 1,100 tons. The GMT mirrors will collect more light than any telescope ever built and the resolution will be the best ever achieved.

TelescopeThis unprecedented light-gathering ability and resolution will help with many other critical questions vital to 21st century science. How did the first galaxies form? What are dark matter and dark energy that comprise most of our universe? How did stellar matter from the Big Bang congeal into what we see today? What is the fate of the universe? The GMT is also creating an innovative funding structure that functions as the first of its kind for large-scale international big science endeavors. Private philanthropy is being engaged in innovative ways that allow philanthropists to connect directly with engineers, physicists, astronomers, and planetary experts.

In this talk, Porter will discuss design specifics, science goals, opportunities for discovery, and aspects of this project that make it unique among the next generation of big science projects worldwide.

Porter received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s of fine arts from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.