Half a billion for BLOODY BIG telescope in Chile

Giant Magellan 'scope a 'venture into the unknown'


The planned largest optical telescope in the world, the Giant Magellan Telescope looks to go ahead, with its consortium signing off on the US$500 million build cost.

The telescope is ambitious engineering: seven mirrors spanning a total of 25 metres, which the project says will focus “six times” the amount of light collected by today's biggest optical telescopes.

If all goes to plan, first light should be seen by three or four primary mirrors in 2021, and all seven mirrors should be in place by 2024.

Even at first light, GMT director Pat McCarthy told the BBC, the instrument will be the world's largest optical telescope "by a good margin".

The idea is to look back at the first winks of light emitted in the ancient universe, just after the Big Bang, an epoch that today is best understood through radio and X-ray 'scopes as well as Hubble.

As Nobel-prizewinning astronomer and chair of Astronomy Australia Brian Schmidt told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the 'scope will be harbinger of a “new era of discoveries”.

Artist Impression of Giant Magellan Telescope

Artist's impression of Giant Magellan Telescope

Adaptive optics for the telescope are being developed at the Australian National University, whose professor Matthew Colless said the designs will mean “we can see smaller things, further away than ever before”, capturing objects ten times smaller and fainter than Hubble can manage.

The optics will use lasers and rapidly-deformable mirrors to cancel out atmospheric distortion, Colless said.

The $500 million now signed off is half of the total billion-dollar budget for the instrument, which will be built at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

The Giant Magellan Telescope's description says it will have “six off-axis 8.4 meter or 27-foot segments surround a central on-axis segment, forming a single optical surface 24.5 meters, or 80 feet, in diameter with a total collecting area of 368 square meters”.

The GMT's competitors when it's completed will be the European Extremely Large Telescope (also to be built in Chile), and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) planned - but currently stalled by controversy - for Hawaii.

The TMT is subject of protests from native Hawaiians, who consider its Manua Kea volcano site to be sacred land.

While not as big as the TMT, the GMT's designers think with fewer panes of glass, they'll have an edge in some of their observations, because GMT image processing won't have to deal with as many phase-shifts between different mirrors, Dr McCarthy told the Beeb.

Institutions taking part in the project include Astronomy Australia, the Australian National University, Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard, the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, the Smithsonian, Texas A&M University, the University of Arizona, the University of Chicago, the University of Texas at Austin, and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading
  • Utility biz Delta-Montrose Electric Association loses billing capability and two decades of records after cyber attack

    All together now - R, A, N, S, O...

    A US utility company based in Colorado was hit by a ransomware attack in November that wiped out two decades' worth of records and knocked out billing systems that won't be restored until next week at the earliest.

    The attack was detailed by the Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) in a post on its website explaining that current customers won't be penalised for being unable to pay their bills because of the incident.

    "We are a victim of a malicious cyber security attack. In the middle of an investigation, that is as far as I’m willing to go," DMEA chief exec Alyssa Clemsen Roberts told a public board meeting, as reported by a local paper.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021