Construction has begun on the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) in Chile, with the aim of completing the build by 2021. This part of the world is perfect for space observation as it has very dry air, and is situated high up in the mountains where there is very little light pollution.
When it’s finally operational, this telescope with produce an image that’s 10 times sharper than those of Hubble, thanks to seven intricately curved lenses that will each be 8.5 metres (28 feet) in diameter. This will make it the largest telescope of its type on Earth, considerably bigger than the Great Canary Telescope in Spain, which has a total aperture of just 10.4 metres (34 feet). For the telescope to work, it’s vital that each lens is completely unblemished. A blemish of as little as 25 nanometers, which is 4000 times smaller than the average width of one of our hairs, would cause the accuracy of the telescope to diminish.
Scientists hope that the GMT will answer a number of question they have about the universe, including the composition of exoplanet atmospheres, how the first galaxies formed, the nature of dark matter and the fate of the universe. Of course one of the biggest questions that still remains is whether or not alien life exists, and the GMT will be tasked with helping to find evidence of life within our Solar System and outside it. These questions aren’t exactly easy to answer, but are well worth investigating.
The GMT will cost around £420 million ($700 million) to build, and has been funded by America, Korea and Australia.
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