Mountaintop blasting to mine the sky with the giant magellan telescope

Mar 23, 2012

Astronomers have begun to blast 3 million cubic feet of rock from a mountaintop in the Chilean Andes to make room for what will be the world's largest telescope when completed near the end of the decade. The telescope will be located at the Carnegie Institution's Las Campanas Observatory—one of the world's premier astronomical sites, known for its pristine conditions and clear, dark skies. Over the next few months, more than 70 controlled blasts will break up the rock while leaving a solid bedrock foundation for the telescope and its precision scientific instruments.

The Giant Magellan (GMT) will have unprecedented capabilities, allowing it to peer back to the dawn of time, witnessing the birth of the first stars, galaxies and black holes, while also exploring planetary systems similar to our own around nearby stars in the Milky Way. The GMT will help astronomers probe the nature of dark matter and dark energy, mysterious forms of matter and energy that allow galaxies to form while the expansion of the universe accelerates.

At a ceremony on the mountaintop March 23, Dr. Wendy Freedman, director of the Carnegie Observatories and chair of the Organization (GMTO) said, "Today marks a historic step toward constructing an astronomical telescope larger than any in existence today. Years of testing have shown that Las Campanas is one of the premier observatory sites in the world and the Carnegie Institution is proud to host the GMT."

The Giant Magellan Telescope is being built by a consortium of U.S., South Korean and Australian institutions with funding from both private and public sources. To date 40% of the telescope's ultimate $700M price tag has been committed and active fundraising is underway to secure the remaining funds.

Carnegie president Richard A. Meserve remarked, "The Carnegie Institution has been a world leader in telescope design and construction for over a century, building the largest and most advanced telescopes in the world. We continue this tradition with the GMT and look forward to the exciting scientific bounty it will yield."

In January of this year the partners cast the second of GMT's seven 28-foot diameter primary mirror segments at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory. The seven primary mirrors, each weighing 20 tons, are the heart of the giant telescope, providing nearly 4,000 square feet of light-gathering area.

Optical scientists at the Mirror Lab are putting the finishing touches on the first mirror segment, whose surface now matches its optical prescription to better than one millionth of an inch. Dr. Patrick McCarthy, the GMT project director, said "2012 is a banner year for the GMT project as we complete the design process, develop the primary mirrors, and begin work on the site in Chile."

Explore further: Image: Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Provided by Carnegie Institution

4.8 /5 (6 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Giant Magellan telescope site selected

Oct 04, 2007

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Consortium announces that the GMT will be constructed at Cerro Las Campanas, Chile. This location was selected for its high altitude, dry climate, dark skies, and unsurpassed seeing quality, ...

First Giant Magellan Telescope Mirror Casting is 'Perfect'

Oct 28, 2005

The University of Arizona Steward Observatory Mirror Lab's casting of the first mirror for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) "appears to be essentially perfect," UA Steward Observatory director Peter Strittmatter ...

UA makes mirrors for world's largest telescope

Jan 18, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- The second of seven 27-foot diameter mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope was cast on Jan. 14 inside a rotating furnace at the UA's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab.

Recommended for you

Image: Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

2 hours ago

It was 45 years ago when astronomer Klim Churyumov and Svetlana Gerasimenko, one of his researchers, unwittingly began a new chapter in the history of space exploration.

Extreme ultraviolet image of a significant solar flare

2 hours ago

The sun emitted a significant solar flare on Oct. 19, 2014, peaking at 1:01 a.m. EDT. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is always observing the sun, captured this image of the event in extreme ultraviolet ...

Heavy metal frost? A new look at a Venusian mystery

21 hours ago

Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds: a first order mystery about the planet that researchers may be a little closer to solving because of a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old ...

Hot explosions on the cool sun

Oct 20, 2014

(Phys.org) —The Sun is more spirited than previously thought. Apart from the solar eruptions, huge bursts of particles and radiation from the outer atmosphere of our star, also the cooler layer right below ...

User comments : 0