The GMTO Corporation has announced a $20 million gift to the University of Arizona from Interface, Inc. founder and chair Richard F. Caris in support of the university's participation in the Giant Magellan Telescope Observatory project at the Las Campanas Observatory in northern Chile.
The gift, which counts toward UA's commitment to raise $60 million for the project, will ensure that UA astronomers have observation time on the telescope, which is expected to have ten times the resolution of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope — and for which the university's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab is manufacturing the giant mirrors, each about twenty-seven meters in diameter. Partners in the project, which is expected to be completed in 2021, include the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and institutes in Australia and South Korea.
Caris, whose gift is the largest to the lab in its ninety-year history, had previously donated more than $2 million toward other astronomy projects at the university. In recognition of the tech entrepreneur's latest gift, the UA mirror lab in Tucson will be renamed the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab.
"Astronomers are always trying to push the frontiers both in terms of discovery and technology," Buell Jannuzi, head of the UA Department of Astronomy and director of the Steward Observatory, told the Arizona Republic. "We tend to be doing things that are expensive."