The Giant Magellan Telescope is a large ground-based telescope project that is planned to be completed by the end of this decade and faces the culmination of its enormous optical element.
The Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory at the University of Arizona has begun the four-year process of manufacturing and polishing its seventh and final primary mirror, the last one needed to complete the telescope’s 368-square-meter light-collecting surface, optics which is the largest. and most challenging feat in the world.
Together, the mirrors collect more light than any telescope in existence, allowing humanity to unlock the secrets of the Universe by providing detailed chemical analyzes of celestial objects and their origins. .
Nearly 20 tons of the purest optical glass were introduced last week in a unique furnace located under the stands of the Arizona Wildcats football stadium. The rotating furnace heats the glass to 1,165°C so that when it melts, it is forced out of the paraboloid curved surface of the glass. With a diameter of 8.4 meters (about two stories high when standing on the edge), the mirror will cool for the next three months before moving to the polishing stage.
Once assembled, the seven mirrors act together as a 25.4-meter monolithic mirror (a diameter equal to the length of an adult blue whale), resulting in with up to 200 times the sensitivity and four times the image resolution of the most advanced mirrors in today’s space telescopes.
The Giant Magellan Telescope is the first very large telescope to complete the primary mirror array. With a strong operational infrastructure completed at the telescope site in Chile, focused manufacturing continues on the telescope’s critical subsystems prior to site start-up.
“We are in a very important phase of manufacturing, and most of the manufacturing is done in the United States,” explained Robert Shelton, president of the Giant Magellan Telescope, in a statement. The 39-meter-tall telescope structure was fabricated from 2,100 tons of steel in Rockford, Illinois, and the first of the telescope’s seven adaptive secondary mirrors, one for each of the seven primary mirrors, was created.
Rebecca Bernstein, chief scientist of the Giant Magellan Telescope, said: “We have a unique combination of capabilities to study planets with high spatial and spectral resolution, which is key to determining whether the a planet has a rocky composition like our Earth, has liquid water and if its atmosphere has the right combination of molecules to indicate the presence of life.