28 July 2015

The largest telescope in the world will take place in Chile

The construction of what will be the largest telescope on earth began last Wednesday, right in the middle of the Atacama desert.

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) will have a 25 meter diameter and will provide stellar images of the highest possible resolution, being able to identify planets orbiting distant stars. To clarify things, this device will have a resolution that is 10 times better than the Hubble Space Telescope, which will allow it to observe black holes and see planets in other solar systems with unprecedented detail.

The telescope will be located in Las Campanas Observatory, home of the Magellan Telescopes, about 115 kilometers northeast of La Serena, Chile. The area is ideal to locate large astronomical observatories due to the dry climate of the Atacama desert and its lack of clouds, light and atmospheric pollution.

Among the universities and research centres involved in this project is the University of Chicago, Harvard, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the University of Texas, University of Arizona, the National University of Australia and the Institute of Astronomy of Korea, as well as national and international astronomers. The latter hope that GMT will be active by 2024, three years after the end of its construction.

“Astronomy is like archaeology; what we see in the sky took place many years ago,”said Yuri Beletsky, an astronomer from Belarus assigned to the GMT. “The greater expectation is that we find something that we don’t expect”, added the scientist in his way to the area of the future Observatory.

With at least five major observatories in the north of Chile, this territory keeps its status as one of the most privileged regions for astronomical research in the world, due to its low humidity and clear skies. ALMA is the largest radio telescope there is, with 66 antennas, controlled by an international collaboration between Europe, North America and Eastern Asia in cooperation with Chile. It is expected that Chile will concentrate about 70% of the worldwide astronomical infrastructure by 2025.

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