GSMT Science Case

One of the most fundamental questions that mankind has pondered since ancient times is “Where do we come from?” This question has complex and multi-layered answers, but astronomy brings a unique scientific perspective. Astronomy follows the evolution of the Universe from its birth to the formation of planets like the Earth. As noted by Riccardo Giacconi, 2002 Nobel laureate in physics, 21st century astronomy is uniquely positioned to study “… the evolution of the Universe in order to relate causally the physical conditions during the Big Bang to the development of RNA and DNA.” Taking the next major step toward achieving this grand synthesis will require a ground-based telescope of unprecedented power: the Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope.

The science case for such a telescope was outlined in the decadal survey report, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millenium (2001), and expanded in the first major report from the GSMT Science Working Group, Frontier Science Enabled by a Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope.

Parallel science cases have also been developed by the three currently active ELT Projects.

An important part of the GSMT Program Office mission is support of the GSMT SWG; as with any other major project, the GSMT science case is expected to evolve in light of new discoveries over the decade during which the next generation of telescope is built.