|Advances in very large mirror manufacturing and the resulting telescopes have vastly improved light-gathering capability allowing very faint magnitudes to be observed. Additionally, the use of adaptive optics, speckle imaging and interferometric imaging have dramatically improved the resolution that can be achieved with earth based optical telescopes.|
|The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT)
Two 8.4 meter mirrors
|The next big breakthrough in Optical Astronomy will be the completion of the
Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). This telescope will employ six off-axis 8.4 meter or 27-foot segments surround a central on-axis segment, forming a single optical surface with a collecting area of 24.5 meters, or 80 feet in diameter. The GMT will have a resolving power
an order of magnitude greater than the Hubble Space Telescope.
The telescope will be located high up on Chile's Atacoma Desert, approximately 8,500 feet above sea level. This location offers superb observing conditions with minimal atmospheric disturbances.
|Artist drawing of finished GMT|
|The telescope will utilize a very advanced optical system
known as "adaptive optics." The telescope's secondary mirrors are
actually flexible. Under each secondary mirror surface, there are
hundreds of actuators that will constantly adjust the mirrors to
counteract atmospheric turbulence. These actuators, controlled by
advanced computers, will transform twinkling stars into clear steady
points of light. It is in this way that the GMT will offer images
that are 10 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.
Utilizing the GMT, astronomers will be able to observe some of the earliest events that occurred right after the "Big Bang" or origin of our universe.
The GMT will take approximately 10 years to become operational.
|8.4 meter mirror under construction|