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(EDITOR'S NOTE: There were than 3,000 views of the live feed for FIRST BLAST, currently trending as the No. 3 story on MSNBC. A recap version of the release, complete with high-resolution images and quotes from GMTO officials, is available here.)

PASADENA, Calif. -- On Friday, March 23, the First Blast (Big Bang Event) is scheduled to occur at Las Campanas Peak in Chile, at high noon U.S. Eastern Daylight Time.

This marks the beginning of leveling and site preparation prior to construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope. Live streaming video will be available at:

https://statedept.connectsolutions.com/chile

Please "Enter as a Guest" and type your name to login.

Any change in time due to external factors will be announced on the link.

Click here to see before and after rendering:

Live streaming is provided thanks to the courtesy and close collaboration of the U.S. Embassy in Chile.

The blasting is scheduled to take place at the following times: United States: 9 a.m. PDT, 10 a.m. MDT, 11 a.m. CDT and 12 EDT; Australia: 3 a.m. EDT; and Korea: 1 a.m. KST.

In addition to Texas A&M University, the GMT Partners are: Astronomy Australia Ltd., The Australian National University, Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard University, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Smithsonian Institution, The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Arizona, and the University of Chicago.

To learn more about the GMT project, visit http://gmto.org.

For more on Texas A&M astronomy, go to http://astronomy.tamu.edu.

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QUOTES: DARREN L. DEPOY
(Professor of Astronomy, Rachal-Mitchell-Heep Endowed Professorship in Physics, George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, Texas A&M University)

"Due to their extensive mining industry, Chileans are experts at blowing up large amounts of rock, which is a great thing for science! In this particular case, the Chilean company charged with the task at hand, removing the top of a mountain near Las Campanas Observatory, usually creates access to huge copper mines. So this is somewhat of an interesting departure for them to be working on preparing the site for the GMT.

"The goal is to chop the top off the mountain to reach stable and solid bedrock on which the enormous telescope can rest. The foundation must be secure, since the entire 1,000-ton telescope has to be able to point at any place in the sky to the precision equivalent of the width of a human hair. The amount of rock to be removed would nearly fill Kyle Field, Texas A&M's football stadium.

"It is exciting to see such progress on getting the GMT under way, although there is another decade of hard work ahead for us all."

-aTm-

Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu; Darren L. DePoy, (979) 224-0071 or depoy@physics.tamu.edu; Nicholas B. Suntzeff, (979) 229-9597 or nsuntzeff@tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Explosive Starts

    Debris and colored smoke rise up from the "Big Bang" construction site for the Giant Magellan Telescope on Las Campanas Peak in Chile on Friday. Red, white and blue coloring agents were added to the explosives to reflect the colors on the flags of the nations involved in the project. (Francisco Figueroa - GMTO Corporation.)

  • Groundbreaking Moments

    Artist's rendering showing the Giant Magellan Telescope and support facilities at Las Campanas Observatory, Chile, high in the Andes Mountains. (Giant Magellan Telescope - GMTO Corporation.)

  • Eye on the Skies

    Artist's renderings of the Giant Magellan Telescope. For more images, visit http://www.gmto.org/. (Giant Magellan Telescope - GMTO Corporation.)

  • New Horizons

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