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Giant Magellan Telescope partners approve start of construction phase

08 June 2015

An international group of collaborators* has secured more than $500 million for an historic project to build the world's largest optical telescope.

The Giant Magellan Telescope will contain a 25.4m primary mirror comprising seven separate 8.4m diameter segments, shown here in an artistic rendering (illustration: GMTO Corporation)

The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) has announced that its eleven international partners have committed more than $500 million to begin construction of the first of a new generation of extremely large telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory in northern Chile. Once it is built, the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) is poised to be the largest optical telescope in the world.

The Giant Magellan Telescope’s seven 8.4m diameter mirrors span over 25m and will focus more than six times the amount of light of the current largest optical telescopes into images up to ten times sharper than those of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Each mirror segment weighs 17 tons and takes one year to cast and cool, followed by more than three years of surface generation and meticulous polishing.

The GMT will enable astronomers to look deeper into space and further back in time than ever before. The telescope is expected to see first light in 2021 and be fully operational by 2024.

*The GMTO manages the GMT project on behalf of its international partners: Astronomy Australia Ltd., The Australian National University, Carnegie Institution for Science, Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo, Harvard University, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Texas A&M University, The University of Arizona, The University of Chicago, and The University of Texas at Austin.

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