Upon its commissioning in 2022, the Giant Magellan Telescope will represent the next generation of the largest ground-based telescopes whose primary goal is to extend and broaden the humanity’s comprehension of the universe. The construction of the telescope is an international project funded by a number of academic institutions from different countries, including Harvard University, Australian National University, Carnegie Institution for Science, São Paulo Research Foundation, University of Texas at Austin, University of Chicago, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, and several more organizations (“GMT Founders”). The telescope will be located in the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, where highly favorable conditions exist for seeing through the atmosphere in terms of weather and altitude (it is one of the highest and driest places on earth) as well as in terms of the number of clear nights per year—300 in average (“Giant Magellan Telescope Overview”). The telescope will employ seven mirrors as segments; six off-axis 27-foot segments will be combined into a structure around the central on-axis segment resulting in a total collecting area of almost 4,000 square feet. The telescope is under construction. According to the official website, the fist question that the project will strive to address is whether we are alone in the universe, i.e. whether life exists on other planets (“Giant Magellan Telescope Overview”). Another question that astronomers will try to answer with the telescope is how the first galaxies formed.
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Another impressive project with which many astronomers’ ambitious expectations are associated is the Thirty Meter Telescope. It is funded by several partnering scientific institutions, such as California Institute of Technology, Department of Science and Technology of India, National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Institutes of Natural Sciences/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, and National Research Council of Canada (“About TMT”). Currently postponed, the project is not expected to be completed before 2022. It had been planned to be located in Hawaii, but a conflict occurred due to the cultural significance of the planned location to the indigenous people of the area. Following its name, the telescope will employ a 30-meter segmented mirror consisting of 492 1.45-meter mirrors (“Fast Facts for Astronomers”). If constructed, the telescope will allow astronomers to study objects within the solar system as well as beyond it and to observe forming galaxies on the farthest borders of the universe as we perceive it now.
Another similar project is the European Extremely Large Telescope, which is now under construction and expected to see first light in 2024. Principal partners in the project are the UK Astronomy Technology Centre and the European Southern Observatory collaborating with three universities: University of Cambridge, Durham University, and University of Oxford (“Information”). The location selected for the telescope is Cerro Armazones, Chile, which was estimated to be an adequate site due to its low humidity and high rate of atmospheric transparency. The 39-meter primary mirror will not only be the largest telescope mirror in the world, but its area will exceed the total of all reflecting areas of major research telescopes in use today (“The Telescope”). This segmented mirror will consist of approximately 800 1.4-meter mirrors. According to astronomers, the capacity of such a mirror with allow exploring objects that are much farther from Earth than those currently available for exploration. Major hopes are to discover the light emitted by the earliest galaxies of the universe and studying objects such as extra-solar planets more closely.
“About TMT.” Thirty Meter Telescope, Web.
“Fast Facts for Astronomers.” Thirty Meter Telescope, Web.
“Giant Magellan Telescope Overview.” GMTP, Web.
“GMT Founders.” GMTP, Web.
“Information.” European Extremely Large Telescope, Web.
“The Telescope.” European Extremely Large Telescope, Web.