The Giant Magellan Telescope - GMT
WIth the James Webb telescope launch set for 2015, the GMT, and a lot more telescopes being built, the questions of our universe almost seem to be closer and closer waiting to be solved. I wrote about the GMT almost a year ago and it quickly became one of my favorite telescopes. It will be operational in 10 years the engineers say. I don’t know if that’s too short or too long. Either way let me tell you a little about this amazing telescope.
The Namesake - Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan, everybody knows the famous explorer, he led an expedition in 1522 which was the first to circumnavigate the earth, an ambitious feat for exploration. Astronomy was the primary tool of navigation of that time and Magellan was a certainly a student of astronomy. The expedition saw in the southern hemisphere obscure clouds in the night sky, later named the Magellanic Clouds. These clouds turned out to be island universes, filled with millions of stars orbiting another island universe, our Milky Way.
The Giant Magellan Telescope will continue the tradition of exploration that was set forth 500 years ago. The telescope is also peering into the unknown, maybe finding new questions to our Universe and searching for new worlds.
The Telescope - A Giant
The GMT will utilize a new and unique design. There will be seven 27ft segmented mirrors surrounding a central segment forming a single optical surface. This precision will give the telescope a resolving power 10x that of the Hubble Telescope. The light will be concentrated into CCD (Charge Coupled Device) image cameras which will measure the distance of objects and what their composition is.
This is Where is Gets More Interesting
The telescopes segmented mirrors are flexible. Under each mirror there are hundreds of ‘actuators’ that constantly adjust the mirrors to counteract atmospheric turbulence. These actuators will turn flickering stars into sharp points of light.
High and Dry
A huge advantage is the location of the GMT. Located in Chile in the Atacama Desert at an altitude of approximately 8,500 ft it is the highest and driest location on Earth.
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