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A hydraulic drill being used to create excavation boundaries: more than 4,000 cubic meters of rock will be removed in preparation of the pouring of the concrete foundations for the Giant Magellan Telescope and its support buildings. (Credit: Giant Magellan Telescope - GMTO Corporation.)

PASADENA, Calif. --

The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) -- along with its international partners including Texas A&M University -- today announced the start of hard rock excavation for the Giant Magellan Telescope's massive concrete pier and the foundations for the telescope's enclosure on its site at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

The excavation work, which uses a combination of hydraulic drilling and hammering and is expected to take about five months to complete, will be performed by Minería y Montajes Conpax (known as Conpax), a construction services company that has previously performed site work for other observatories in Chile. Excavation is a key step toward the construction of the GMT, which is expected to see first light as early as 2024.

The 25-meter diameter GMT, expected to have a final weight of about 1,600 metric tons, will comprise seven 8.4-meter mirrors supported by a steel telescope structure that will be seated on the concrete pier. It will be housed inside a rotating enclosure that will measure 65 meters (~22 stories) tall and 56 meters wide. As well as working on the enclosure and telescope pier foundations, Conpax will excavate a recess in the summit rock for the lower portion of the mirror coating chamber and foundations for a utility building and tunnel on the summit.

"With the start of construction of the permanent buildings on the site, the GMT is showing tangible progress toward completion," said GMTO Project Manager James Fanson. "We are delighted that Conpax is carrying out this important work."

The most challenging part of their work on the summit will be to excavate the solid rock of the mountain top to a depth of 7 meters (23 feet) to hold the concrete for the telescope pier. Much of this work will be done with a hydraulic rock hammer and jack hammer to ensure that the integrity of the solid bedrock below the pier is undamaged.

"In total, we expect to remove 5,000 cubic meters, or 13,300 tons, of rock from the mountain and will need 330 dump-truck loads to remove it from the summit," Fanson said.

Las Campanas Observatory, located in the southern Atacama Desert of Chile and owned by the Carnegie Institution for Science, is one of the world's premier astronomical sites known for its clear, dark skies and stable airflow that produces exceptionally sharp images. With its unique design, the GMT will produce images that are 10 times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope in the infrared region of the spectrum and will be used by astronomers to study planets around other stars and to look back to the time when the first galaxies formed.

In the past year, the GMT project has cast the fifth primary mirror segment at the University of Arizona's Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory, announced a new partner for the project in Arizona State University, and awarded design-build contracts for the telescope mount.

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About the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization: The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) manages the GMT project on behalf of its international partners: Arizona State University, Astronomy Australia Ltd., The Australian National University, Carnegie Institution for Science, Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo, Harvard University, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Texas A&M University, The University of Arizona, The University of Chicago, and The University of Texas at Austin. For more information, visit www.gmto.org.

Connect with the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization on social media: gplus.to/gmtelescope, twitter.com/GMTelescope, facebook.com/GMTelescope, instagram.com/gmtelescope/ and visit http://www.gmto.org.

About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $905.4 million in fiscal year 2017. Texas A&M ranked in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation's Higher Education Research and Development survey (2016), based on expenditures of more than $892.7 million in fiscal year 2016. Texas A&M's research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu/.

-aTm-

MEDIA CONTACTS
Sarah Erman, sarah.erman@zenogroup.com
Amanda Kocz, akocz@gmto.org

GMTO CONTACTS
Robert N. Shelton, rshelton@gmto.org
James Fanson, jfanson@gmto.org
Bruce C. Bigelow, bbigelow@gmto.org
  • Artist's rendering of an aerial view showing the Giant Magellan Telescope and support facilities at Las Campanas Observatory, Chile, high in the Andes Mountains. (Credit: Giant Magellan Telescope - GMTO Corporation.)

  • Artist's rendering of the Giant Magellan Telescope reflecting the Chilean sunset. For more images, visit http://www.gmto.org/gallery. (Credit: Giant Magellan Telescope - GMTO Corporation.)

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