La Serena, Chile — The construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) began today on Cerro Las Campanas, Chile. The object will be one of the first of many upcoming super-massive optical telescopes and it’s expected to be finished by the year 2022 to start operations in 2024.
The GMT will weigh 1100 tons and it’ll be equipped with seven 8.4 meter mirrors combined for a diameter of 25 meters — which makes it the larger telescope in the world, according to developers. With this system, astronomers can obtain high-resolution images that are 10 times sharper than those captured by the best telescopes currently available.
Scientists plan to use the GMT, among other tools, to conduct a deeper study of dark matter and to explore habitable planets beyond our solar system.
“We are thrilled to be breaking ground on the Giant Magellan Telescope site at such an exciting time for astronomy. With its unprecedented size and resolving power, the Giant Magellan Telescope will allow current and future generations of astronomers to continue the journey of cosmic discovery,” said Taft Armandroff, GMT board chairman and director of the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas.
The GMT will be part of the Las Campanas Observatory — managed by the Carnegie Institution for Science —, which has many other telescopes built on the mountain ridge that goes across the Atacama Desert. Cerro Las Campanas specifically has a height of 2500 meters. The construction will take place on the top, where workers will start leveling the road to prepare to lay the telescope’s foundation ground later on.
The Chilean mountain ridge happens to be an excellent location for a telescope since the area has wide and black skies thanks to the dry environment, which translates into less rain and fewer clouds to possibly block the telescope’s view. According to Patrick McCarthy, the vice president of the GMT Corporation, astronomy and water don’t go well together. The liquid tends to absorb the light, resulting in a lesser quality view of space.
There are some other projects that resemble the ambitions of the Giant Magellan Telescope. The 39 meters European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) began its construction in Chile as well, and it’s expected to be functional by the year 2024. There’s also the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) being built in Hawaii, which it’s said to be operational after 2022 due to some issues with the construction process.
All of these projects represent a significant improvement in the astronomy field. Developers of the Giant Magellan Telescope assure to be excited about their progress.