Construction begins on the Giant Magellan Telescope
With an explosion Friday morning that leveled the top of Las Campanas mountain in Chile, construction began on the $700 million Giant Magellan Telescope, which will be one of the world's largest astronomical observatories.
When the telescope is completed around 2019, its seven-mirror array, which spans 82 feet, will peer deep into space with 10 times the power of the Hubble Space Telescope.
And what do astronomers hope to see? Among other things, GMTO Corp. says the telescope it's building will provide better pictures of extrasolar planets that could prove Earth-like, along with insights on dark matter and the origin of galaxies.
Beginning Friday and continuing for the next few months, more than 70 controlled blasts will remove 3 million cubic feet of rock from a mountaintop in the Chilean Andes, leaving a solid bedrock foundation for the telescope and its precision scientific instruments.
Photo by: Giant Magellan Telescope
/ Caption by:James Martin
The Giant Magellan Telescope will be enclosed in a 200-foot-high building at the Las Campanas Observatory in the Andes Mountains in Chile.
The site in northern Chile's Atacama desert was chosen for its weather--it boasts more than 300 clear days a year. The Atacama is known as one of the driest places on Earth, which means skies free of clouds.
This artist's illustration shows the seven mirrors, each 27.6 feet in diameter, that make up the Giant Magellan Telescope.
But wait, the Giant Magellan Telescope isn't the only new star gazer. Already in the planning stages, the European Extremely Large Telescope will sport an even bigger mirror and will be built close by.