[ASA] News from GMTO

John O'Byrne john.obyrne at sydney.edu.au
Sat May 19 00:53:29 AEST 2012

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Blast Off! 

GMT's "Big Bang" - The first of over 72 controlled blasts
which will create a solid bedrock foundation
for the Giant Magellan Telescope
(Photo: Francisco Figueroa/GMTO) 
On Friday, March 23, 2012 the GMT project passed another major milestone when it began leveling its mountain top site at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Approximately 72 carefully controlled blasts, coordinated with the work of heavy earth moving equipment, will clear an area equivalent to four football fields, leaving a solid bedrock foundation for the giant telescope and its support facilities. Nearly 4 million cubic feet of rock will be moved to level the site, in some areas the elevation will be lowered by as much as 30 feet. The site leveling work should be completed in July or early August.
Work on the site is being carried out by a Chilean engineering firm with expertise in earth moving and direct experience in preparing mountain top observatory sites. Geophones (sensitive monitors of motion and vibration) are being used to monitor the blasting.

Las Campanas is one of the premier astronomical sites on the planet. With its clear skies, non-existent light pollution and exceptionally sharp images, Las Campanas is one of the last outposts on the Earth where astronomers can expect pristine observing conditions. 
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Out of the Oven 

The Second GMT Primary Mirror Segment blank on the furnace hearth. Note the person at the top edge of the mirror
for a sense of the mirror's size
(Photo: Ray Bertram/Steward Observatory Mirror Lab)
Early this year the second of the GMT's 8.4m primary mirror segments was cast at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory. Since mid-January the mirror blank has been slowly cooling and undergoing a process of "annealing." During this phase the mirror blank is cooled in a carefully controlled manner to ensure that there are no strains or stresses locked into the glass as it slowly contracts while cooling.  

In late April the lid of the furnace was raised and the mirror lab crew got their first direct look at the solid glass surface within. All looked well, but the real inspection would have to await removal of the furnace walls, allowing access to the side of the mirror. All of the furnace structure has now been removed and the mirror blank looks perfect.
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GMT Software and Controls Team

The GMT Software and Controls Team
From Left: Matthieu Bec, Ning Liu, José Filgueira,
José Soto, Chien Peng (Photo: Angie Valdericeda/GMTO)
The GMT Software and Controls team, headed by José Filgueira, is responsible for developing software that will both operate the observatory and assist astronomers with acquiring and processing their data. This international team of expert software engineers comes to GMT with substantial experience in developing control systems and software for large telescopes and sophisticated scientific instruments. The team will develop software that controls the telescope, aligns its massive mirrors, operates scientific instruments, opens, closes and rotates the enclosure, and many other tasks.

State of the art software and controls are essential to the operations of a complex and highly integrated system like the GMT. Jose's group is getting an early start on the process by developing the top-level system architecture and by prototyping critical elements of the control system.

In assembling his team, José states, "We were looking for a broad and balanced set of skills and experience." José brings to GMT nearly twenty years of experience in astronomical software projects, including heading the Control System Group at Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) 10 meter telescope project at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC) in La Laguna, Spain. When asked why he was attracted to the GMT project, José replied, "The GMT is a unique project that pushes back technical as well as scientific frontiers."
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Upcoming Events

GMT will be exhibiting and presenting several papers at SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation 2012. Look for the GMT team at Stand 207, RAI Convention Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 2 through July 4.
Employment Opportunities

The GMT Project is looking for highly-motivated and qualified individuals to work on this world-class facility. Find out about current open positions.

Copyright © 2012, GMTO Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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