Giant Magellan Telescope
The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) will be the world's largest telescope when it is completed in 2025. Instead of one large mirror, the GMT will have seven separate mirrors working together. This will mean its collecting area is bigger than the actual mirror surfaces. It will be made of seven 8.4 m (27.6 ft) diameter mirror parts. It will have a the resolving power of a 24.5 m (80.4 ft) mirror. Its collecting area will be the same as a 21.4 m (70.2 ft) mirror. The telescope will have over four times the ability to gather light than existing telescopes. It will produce images up to ten times clearer than the Hubble Space Telescope. It will cost $700 million.
|Part of||Las Campanas Observatory|
|Location(s)||Vallenar, Trehuaco, Huasco Province, Atacama Region, Chile|
|Altitude||2,516 m (8,255 ft)|
|Wavelength||320 nm (940 THz)-25,000 nm (12 THz)|
|Telescope style||Gregorian telescope|
|Diameter||25.448 m (83 ft 5.9 in)|
|Secondary diameter||3.2 m (10 ft 6 in)|
|Angular resolution||0.01 arcsecond|
|Collecting area||368 m2 (3,960 sq ft)|
|Focal length||18, 202.7 m (59 ft 1 in, 665 ft 0 in)|
The location of the telescope is the Las Campanas Observatory, which is also the site of the Magellan Telescopes, some 115 km (71 mi) northeast of La Serena, Chile. This area has clear weather for most of the year. The night sky in most of the surrounding Atacama Desert region is free from atmospheric pollution. With few cities nearby this is probably one of the places least affected by light pollution. All of this makes the area one of the best spots on Earth for long-term astronomical observation.
The telescope is unique because it will use seven mirror sections, each 8.4 m (27.6 ft) in diameter. These segments will then be arranged to form a single optical surface. This is difficult as the surface of the outer six mirror segments is not radially symmetrical (that is, they are off-axis). This requires a small change in the way mirrors are usually polished. All seven mirrors will be arranged so that the reflecting surface of each of them is on a common axis. One mirror will be in the center and the other six arranged symmetrically around the center. A focal plane will be on-axis with the entire assembly. The plan is to build seven identical off-axis mirrors. The spare mirror has been made to replace a mirror when it needs recoating, a 1–2 week (per segment) process required every 1–2 years.
The Steward Observatory, at the University of Arizona, is making the mirrors in a laboratory beneath the university's football stadium. It is using a rotating furnace to make the mirror. The casting of the first mirror was completed on November 3, 2005. But the time-consuming shaping and polishing will be completed in the autumn of 2011.
The following is a list of the group which is developing the telescope.
- Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (OCIW)
- University of Chicago
- Harvard University
- Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
- Texas A&M University
- University of Arizona
- University of Texas at Austin
- Australian National University
- Astronomy Australia Limited
- Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute
George P. Mitchell, founder of Mitchell Energy & Development Corp., and The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation are giving $25 million to help pay for the telescope.
- Maggie McKee (2007-10-04). "Giant telescope in race to become world's largest". New Scientist. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- "Giant Magellan Telescope Partner Institutions". GMT Consortium. Archived from the original on 2007-02-11. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
- "Giant Magellan telescope site selected". Carnegie Institution. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- "George Mitchell Commits $25 Million to Giant Magellan Telescope". Giant Magellan Telescope Organization. Archived from the original on 2012-01-31. Retrieved 2011-09-07.
- Robinson, Travis (2007-04-03). "Eye on the sky". The Battalion. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
- "Telescope Structure". GMT Conceptual Design Report. February 2006. Archived from the original on 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2007-10-07. Section 7.4.5, page 7-17.
- "Overview". Giant Magellan Telescope Organization. Archived from the original on 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2011-09-07.
- "Giant Magellan Telescope Partner Institutions". GMTO. Archived from the original on 2009-02-20. Retrieved 2009-02-11.
- Giant Magellan Telescope home page
- Article from the MIT news office
- New Scientist article on the telescope Archived 2008-03-17 at the Wayback Machine
- COSMOS article on the telescope Archived 2008-12-30 at the Wayback Machine
- Painted outline of the mirrors at the parking lot of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution in Pasadena