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Science AMA Series: I’m Dr. Patrick McCarthy, interim president for the Giant Magellan Telescope. I’m leading the team building the world’s largest telescope. AMA!
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Hi Redditors, I’m Pat McCarthy, and I’m looking forward to talking about life as a working astronomer with you! A little about me: I’m best known for my work observing the formation of the earliest galaxies and my study of distant low frequency cosmic radio sources. In the late 1990s, my colleagues and I were among the first to explore the distant universe – galaxies and quasars more than halfway back towards the big bang! I joined the Carnegie Observatories as a Carnegie Fellow in 1988, after completing my PhD at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1991, I received the Hubble Fellowship, during the second year of its program and I joined the faculty at Carnegie in 1993. For more than a decade I worked at Carnegie in an office next to the one used by Einstein during his summer visits to Pasadena and just above Edwin Hubble’s office. I was part of the team that developed the last, and most powerful instrument, to be deployed on the Hubble Space Telescope. This instrument has allowed us to see galaxies when the Universe was only 500 million years old! I am now working to support development of the next generation of giant telescopes on the ground, telescopes that Hubble could only dream of. Today, I lead the team of scientists and engineers building the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), an enormous instrument comprised of seven primary mirror segments—the seven largest mirrors ever made—that will stretch to more than 80 feet across once complete. The GMT will explore the cosmos to observe the first stars in the universe, offering images 10 times sharper than those coming from the Hubble Space Telescope. Since 2008, I’ve served as the head of the non-profit corporation, GMTO, that is charged with carrying out the development, construction and operation of the telescope and related facilities. My day-to-day responsibilities include ensuring that the telescope and its instruments will be able to address the key questions at the forefront of astrophysics in 2020 and beyond. Proof! Edit: 3:55pm EDT That’s all, folks! I’m logging off now. I have had a great time chatting about the Giant Magellan Telescope as well as the state of astronomy. Thanks for all of the interesting and thought-provoking questions. Be sure to follow @GMTelescope and like Giant Magellan Telescope on Facebook to keep up-to-date on future developments. Until next time - Pat