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Construction Begins on the Giant Magellan Telescope – The World's Largest Optical Telescope

Posted by Guy Pirro 09/06/2018 12:19AM

Construction Begins on the Giant Magellan Telescope – The World's Largest Optical Telescope

The start of hard rock excavation for the Giant Magellan Telescope’s massive concrete pier and the foundations for the telescope’s enclosure has started in Chile's Atacama Desert. Using a combination of hydraulic drilling and hammering, the excavation work is expected to take about five months to complete. The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) is slated to be the first in a new class of extremely large telescopes, capable of producing images with 10 times the clarity of those captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. The GMT aims to discover Earth-like planets around nearby stars and the tiny distortions that black holes cause in the light from distant stars and galaxies. It will reveal the faintest objects ever seen in space, including extremely distant and ancient galaxies, the light from which has been travelling to Earth since shortly after the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago. The telescope is being built at the Carnegie Institution for Science's Las Campanas Observatory in the dry, clear air of Chile's Atacama Desert, and will be housed a structure 22 stories high. GMT is expected to see first light in 2024.


I remember seeing the first of these mirrors being cast at The University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab 12 years ago when I attended an astronomy camp in 2006 and again at Adam Block's Making Every Pixel Count Workshop in 2008, both at The SkyCenter located at the 9,000+ foot level of Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

"The casting of the first mirror, in a rotating furnace, was completed on November 3, 2005, but the grinding and polishing were still going on 6½ years later when the second mirror was cast, on 14 January 2012." --