Just like its namesake, the Giant Magellan Telescope is all about exploration and discovery. When completed in Chile in 2024, the project will deliver the world’s largest optical
telescope, giving astronomers an unprecedented ability to understand how the first stars,
galaxies and black holes formed.
Originally slated for completion in 2016 but delayed by the global economic crisis, the
project is sponsored by a global consortium of universities and scientific research institutions. They’ve raised half of the telescope’s US$1 billion budget. That price tag makes it
the largest privately funded telescope initiative to date.
The project features another first. It will be about 22 stories tall and rely on the largest
piece of optical equipment ever built: seven massive mirrors each weighing about 17 tons.
The surface must be polished to an accuracy of 25 nanometers—about the width of a
single glass molecule.
The project site in the Chilean Andes, Las Campanas, was carefully chosen. One of the
highest and driest places on Earth, it offers extreme conditions that are ideal for viewing the
cosmos. But the location also is one of the most earthquake-prone in the world, so the telescope was designed to withstand the largest possible quake in a 500-year period—making it
possible for scientists to explore the origins of the universe for centuries to come.
PROJECT: Giant Magellan Telescope
BUDGET: US$1 billion
CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULE: 2015-2024
SHARPER IMAGE: The telescope will
produce images with 10 times the angular
resolution of those produced by NASA’s
orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.
“About seven to 10 years from now,
there will be observational capabilities
that are completely unprecedented.”