A Pond of Molten Glass Inside This Furnace Could Help Us Discover Alien Life

With the casting of its fifth primary mirror at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona, the world's largest telescope clears a major milestone toward completion. Sporting seven primary mirror segments, the Giant Magellan Telescope, or GMT, will provide astronomers with a one-of-a-kind tool to answer some of the most fundamentally grand questions about the cosmos and our place in it, including detecting signatures of biological activity on planets outside of our solar system.


About the GMT and Its Mirrors

With its unique configuration of seven honeycomb mirror segments, each spanning 27.5 feet, the GMT's light-gathering capability will be unprecedented. The GMT will make images 10 times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope and will help astronomers answer some of the most pressing questions about the cosmos:

  • The detection, imaging, and characterization of planets orbiting other stars
  • The nature of dark matter and dark energy
  • The physics of black holes
  • How stars and galaxies evolved during the earliest phases of the universe

Media Coverage


Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab

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UA and GMT Experts

Buell Jannuzi

Director, UA Steward Observatory
(520) 621-6524

Buell T. Jannuzi has served as head and director of the UA Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory since 2012. Previously, he was director of Kitt Peak National Observatory and associate director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (2005-2010). He served for five years as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey. Jannuzi was recognized in 1993 with one of NASA’s prestigious Hubble Fellowships. He has served on boards of directors or science advisory committees of numerous major ground-based and space observatories (including Gemini Observatory, NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA Fermi Space Telescope, Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Corporation and the Giant Magellan Telescope), and was president of the board of directors of the International Dark Sky Association.

Jeffrey Kingsley

Associate Director, UA Steward Observatory
(520) 626-3527

Jeffrey S. Kingsley’s career working on antennas, instruments, optics and large telescopes spans more than 30 years. He joined the UA in 2003 and was promoted to his current position in 2006. During his tenure at the UA, he has been most involved in managing projects, telescopes and technical groups for private, public, government and defense customers. As director of projects, engineering and technical services for Steward and the College of Optical Sciences, Kingsley oversees more than 20 projects. He manages teams consisting of more than 150 scientists, engineers and technicians who implement these projects while supporting more than 26 telescopes on eight sites worldwide.

Robert Shelton

President, Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO)

Robert N. Shelton is responsible for the overall leadership of the GMT project, with a focus on resource development and fundraising. He works closely with the board of directors and the founding institutions to lead the project to success. Shelton is a renowned scientific and administrative leader, having previously been the president of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, the president of the University of Arizona, the executive vice chancellor and provost of UNC-Chapel Hill, and vice provost for research for the University of California system. He was also the executive director of the Arizona Sports Foundation (Fiesta Bowl) and serves on the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) Board.

Patrick McCarthy

Vice President for Operations, Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO)

Patrick J. McCarthy is a research astronomer who has served the Giant Magellan Telescope Project since 2005, helping to define and articulate its scientific mission. McCarthy’s scientific research focuses on the evolution of galaxies in the first few billion years after the Big Bang. McCarthy has advised the National Science Foundation on the budgets and operations of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. In his current role at GMTO, McCarthy communicates the scientific potential of the GMTO while managing much of the day-to-day operations.

Buddy Martin

Project Scientist

Buddy Martin is the Project Scientist for Mirror Polishing at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab. He leads the fabrication and testing of large optics, including the 8.4-meter segments of the Giant Magellan Telescope. Martin has a Ph. D. in physics from Cambridge University and has been at Steward Observatory since 1986. He was a radio astronomer before moving up to manufacturing optics.

Dae Wook Kim

Associate Professor

Dae Wook Kim is a principal scientist for projects that develop and implement advanced technologies for building and testing large optical systems and astronomical telescope mirrors. He has been working in the optical engineering field for more than 10 years, focusing on very large astronomical optics such as 25-meter diameter Giant Magellan Telescope primary mirror. His main research area has been precision optical fabrication.

Jared Males


Jared Males is an astronomer in UA's Steward Observatory, where he works on instruments to detect and characterize exoplanets. He is the principle investigator of the NSF-funded instrument "MagAO-X", which is a new adaptive optics system and coronagraph being developed for the Magellan Clay telescope. Males received his Ph.D. from the UA in 2013, and was a NASA Sagan Fellow at Steward Observatory from 2013 to 2016.

Media Contacts

Daniel Stolte

University of Arizona
(520) 626-4402 (w)
(520) 954-1964 (m)

Cathi Duncan

Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab
University of Arizona
520-626-8792 (w)
520-909-1346 (m)