Huge telescope opens in Spain's Canary Islands

Jul 24, 2009 By CARLOS MORENO , Associated Press Writer
The Gran Telescopio Canarias, one of the the world's largest telescopes is seen at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain, Friday July 24, 2009. The euro130 million (US$179 million) telescope, designed to take advantage of pristine, clear skies at the Roque de los Muchachos observatory atop the Atlantic island of La Palma, was inaugurated Friday. (AP Photo/Carlos Moreno)

(AP) -- One of the world's most powerful telescopes opened its shutters for the first time Friday to begin exploring faint light from distant parts of the universe. The Gran Telescopio Canarias, a euro130 million ($185 million) telescope featuring a 34-foot (10.4-meter) reflecting mirror, sits atop an extinct volcano. Its location above cloud cover takes advantage of the pristine skies in the Atlantic Ocean.

Planning for the began in 1987 and has involved more than 1,000 people from 100 companies. It was inaugurated Friday by King Juan Carlos.

The observatory is located at 2,400 meters (7,870 feet) above sea-level where prevailing winds keep the atmosphere stable and transparent, the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute said.

The institute, which runs the telescope, said it will capture the birth of stars, study characteristics of and decipher some of the chemical components of the Big Bang.

The telescope is composed of 36 separate mirrors that began slowly focusing in July 2007 to eventually act as a single large reflecting surface that directs light onto a central camera point.

Among those who have done research at La Palma is Brian May, lead guitarist of rock group Queen, who studied there for part of his doctorate in astrophysics at the institute.

May, who published "BANG! The Complete History of the Universe" with astronomers Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott, composed a musical score for the telescope's inauguration.

Large reflecting telescopes began making major contributions to astronomical research when Edwin Hubble perfected the technique of capturing photographic exposures of space with the then-massive 200-inch mirror at Mount Palomar Observatory, in north San Diego County, California in Jan. 1949.

----

Associated Press Writer Harold Heckle in Madrid contributed to this report.
©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Short, sharp shocks let slip the stories of supernovae

Related Stories

U. of Ariz. has telescope work contract

Aug 02, 2006

(AP) -- The University of Arizona will get $3 million for polishing the 4.3-meter mirror of a new $40 million telescope partially funded by the owners of the Discovery Channel.

World's largest telescope to be built in Hawaii

Jul 22, 2009

(AP) -- Hawaii was chosen Tuesday as the site for the world's biggest telescope, a device so powerful that it will allow scientists to see some 13 billion light years away and get a glimpse into the early ...

Recommended for you

Hubble observes one-of-a-kind star nicknamed 'Nasty'

May 21, 2015

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered surprising new clues about a hefty, rapidly aging star whose behavior has never been seen before in our Milky Way galaxy. In fact, the star is ...

Galaxy's snacking habits revealed

May 20, 2015

A team of Australian and Spanish astronomers have caught a greedy galaxy gobbling on its neighbours and leaving crumbs of evidence about its dietary past.

Supernova ignition surprises scientists

May 20, 2015

Scientists have captured the early death throes of supernovae for the first time and found that the universe's benchmark explosions are much more varied than expected.

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

otto1923
not rated yet Jul 24, 2009
No canaries were harmed in the construction of this telescope (probably not).
TJ_alberta
not rated yet Jul 24, 2009
canaries? what are you thinking otto?

why can't I find Brian May's music for the opening on youtube?
otto1923
not rated yet Jul 25, 2009
Canary islands. Large telescopes. Mauna Loa environmentalists. Humor. Brian who? Otto knows only black metal. Try golgoroth.
otto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jul 25, 2009
What happens when the flank of the La Palma volcano collapses? Won't this screw up collimation?
bluehigh
1 / 5 (2) Jul 25, 2009
... pristine clear skies .... above cloud cover ...

It must have been the one bad day when the photo was taken!
otto1923
not rated yet Jul 25, 2009
Must be fireworks... or a burnt offering to the mountaingods. Should try that in Hawaii for new scopes or Pele might belch-
daveib6
not rated yet Jul 25, 2009
Its location above cloud cover takes advantage of the pristine skies in the Atlantic Ocean.

Check out the picture! How's that working out? Hmmmmm... Me thinks somebody has miscalculated the Cloud line.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.