Cash boost for world’s most powerful telescope

An artist's impression of the Giant Magellan Telescope. Produced by Mason M

An artist's impression of the Giant Magellan Telescope. Produced by Mason Media Inc

The construction of one of the world’s most powerful telescopes has been given a multi-million dollar cash boost.

The Giant Magellan Telescope project has received US$17.5 million from the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

The Australian National University is one of 12 partners in the project.

According to Professor Matthew Colless, the grant will help develop the advanced technology needed to allow astronomers to see further into space.

"When complete, the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) will be more than 2.5 times the size of any other ground-based optical telescope," Professor Colless said.

"Astronomers measure telescopes by the diameter of the main mirror because the more light you can collect, the more you can see.

"The GMT will be able to collect about five times more light than the biggest existing telescopes, meaning we’ll be able to see things much fainter than present limits.

"GMT will also use new technology that virtually eliminates the blurring effect of the atmosphere, so it can see nearly as sharply as telescopes in space."

Professor Colless says the support from the National Science Foundation will open up new opportunities.

"This effectively means we’re linking up with the whole US astronomical community.

"It’s really exciting for ANU to be involved. It means our researchers will have access to the biggest and most powerful new technology. Every time we build a new telescope we discover new things, so GMT is another exciting step towards understanding our universe."

The Giant Magellan Telescope will be constructed at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.


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