Congratulations, SAO!

Secretary Bunch congratulates our colleagues in Cambridge for moving one step closer to completion of the Giant Magellan Telescope.

The Milky Way arches over the future site of the Giant Magellan Telescope on Cerros Las Campanas in Chile. (Photo by Yuri Beletsky)

Since our founding 175 years ago, scientists at the Smithsonian have been exploring our universe, seeking evidence of life on other planets. In the coming decade, we may finally find some answers.

This past week, our very own Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory received tremendous news. The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), a powerful next-generation telescope that will search for life in our universe, was ranked a national priority by the National Academy of Sciences in their Astro2020: Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics. This extraordinary endorsement means that the GMT is one step closer to completion, thanks in part to the tremendous efforts of our Smithsonian scientists and engineers. SAO staff members have been developing technology for the GMT for over a decade and championing the cause for its construction.

Along the same lines, a space-based X-ray telescope inspired by Smithsonian research received a strong endorsement for further development and eventual launch. I was briefed on this effort when I visited SAO shortly after becoming Secretary, and I know that more than 70 SAO astrophysicists poured their hearts and souls into this mission concept over the past 10 years.

I want to congratulate the many individuals at SAO who have contributed to these two exciting developments. More than 175 years later, I am proud to see the Smithsonian still playing a cutting-edge role in the increase and diffusion of knowledge.


Lonnie G. Bunch

Torch | Why do we need an extremely large telescope like the Giant Magellan Telescope? (

Posted: 17 November 2021
About the Author:

Lonnie G. Bunch III is the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and is the first historian to be Secretary of the Institution.

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