Starts With A Bang

World’s largest telescope will revolutionize the future of astronomy (Synopsis)

The Giant Magellan Telescope, as it will appear upon completion. Image credit: Giant Magellan Telescope / GMTO Corporation.

“For my confirmation, I didn’t get a watch and my first pair of long pants, like most Lutheran boys. I got a telescope. My mother thought it would make the best gift.” -Wernher von Braun

Sure, going to space is great for overcoming Earth’s atmosphere, but it’s no substitute for the sheer size of what we can build on the ground. The current record-holder for largest telescope is 10.4 meters in diameter, and that takes 36 hexagonal segments to get there. But single mirrors can be cast up to about 8 meters in diameter. Thanks to a revolutionary design, the Giant Magellan Telescope will stitch 7 of them together into a single, 25 meter telescope.

A comparison of the mirror sizes of various existing and proposed telescopes. When GMT comes online, it will be the world’s largest, and will be the first 25 meter+ class optical telescope in history. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Cmglee, under c.c.a.-s.a.-3.0.

It will have 100 times the light-gathering power of Hubble, and will be able to take a number of unprecedented observations. It will measure rotation curves of galaxies up to 10 billion light years away. It will take direct images of nearby exoplanets, both Earth-like ones such as Proxima b and Jupiter-like ones that haven’t been discovered yet. It will measure galactic outflows, molecular clouds and so much more. But the greatest discoveries that await will surely be the ones we can’t anticipate.

The occultation of Jupiter’s moon, Io, with its erupting volcanoes Loki and Pele, as occulted by Europa, which is invisible in this infrared image. GMT will provide significantly enhanced resolution and imaging. Image credit: LBTO.

Find out why all of this is so exciting, and how GMT will revolutionize astronomy!