$1B Giant Magellan Telescope to Have 4x the Resolution of James Webb

A new $205 million cash infusion has been received for the Giant Magellan Telescope, the most potent telescope ever designed. This money will be utilized to speed up construction. It will have four times the power of the James Webb Space Telescope once it is complete.

The investment, which will be used to build a massive 12-story telescope tower that will be housed at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert, is one of the largest fundraising rounds for the telescope since its creation, according to the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO).

Once completed, the Giant Magellan Telescope will have four times the spatial resolution and ten times the light-collecting area of the James Webb Space Telescope (10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope).

It will also be 200 times more powerful than any other research telescope now in use. While no precise completion date has been set, commissioning is planned to begin in the late 2020s, and this additional capital infusion will undoubtedly help make that objective a reality.

According to the GMTO, significant progress has already been made in the construction of the telescope over the last few years.

“Six of seven primary mirror segments have been cast in Tucson, Arizona. The third primary mirror segment has completed its two-year polishing phase and is undergoing final testing. Construction of a 40,000-square-foot facility in Rockford, Illinois to manufacture the telescope structure is complete. The production of the telescope’s first adaptive secondary mirror is well underway in France and Italy, and the site in Chile is primed for the next stage of construction and pouring of the foundation,” the GMTO says.

“This latest $205 million investment round positions the Giant Magellan Telescope to be one of the first in a new generation of extremely large telescopes to be constructed. First light is anticipated by the end of the decade.”


A section of the Giant Magellan Telescope.

The Giant Magellan Telescope is regarded as the key to the future of space exploration. It will use seven of the world's largest mirrors — the 25.4-meter primary mirror array is made up of seven 8.4-meter diameter mirrors weighing 18 metric tonnes — to produce the most detailed images of the Universe ever taken, even outclassing the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which recently dazzled the world with its incredible resolution. The Giant Magellan Telescope, on the other hand, will take things to the next level.

The Giant Magellan Telescope in Cross Section

The overall light collecting area of 368 square metres will provide images crisp enough to distinguish the flame carved on a dime from nearly 99 miles (160 kilometres). The telescope mount stands 39 metres tall, weighs 2,100 tonnes, and is encased in a 65-meter container that can rotate 360 degrees in less than three minutes. Seven adaptive secondary mirrors can reshape the two-millimeter-thick surface 2,000 times per second to compensate for the optical blurring effect of the Earth's atmosphere across the telescope's widest field of view.

In short, the telescope will be a technological marvel that will establish a new standard for space observation.

"This unparalleled angular resolution, along with revolutionary spectrographs and high contrast cameras, will work in direct synergy with JWST to enable new scientific discoveries," according to the GMTO.

Image credit: GMTO Corporation, Giant Magellan Telescope

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