Updated 10:50 AM EST, Fri, Feb 28, 2020

Chile to Construct the World’s Largest Telescope

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Chile has broken ground on a huge telescope that is set to be the world's largest.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) was held on Wednesday on a remote mountaintop in the Chilean Andes, UTNews reported. The event was attended by leaders and supporters from The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory, as well as representatives from a global group of partner universities and research institutions.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet also graced the groundbreaking ceremony, which serves as the commencement of on-site construction of the telescope and its support base, The Economic Times noted.

"We are thrilled to be breaking ground on the Giant Magellan Telescope site at such an exciting time for astronomy," said Dr. Taft Armandroff, GMT board chair and director of McDonald Observatory, as quoted by UTNews. "With its unprecedented size and resolving power, the Giant Magellan Telescope will allow current and future generations of astronomers to continue the journey of cosmic discovery."

The GMT is set to begin operations in 2021, the news outlet further reported. It will provide images 10 times as clear as those produced by the Hubble Space Telescope and will tackle key questions in astrophysics, cosmology, and the study of planets outside our solar system.

The $500 million telescope will be situated at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert, The Economic Times wrote. The location is known for its outstanding clear skies perfect for astronomy, powerful telescopes, and stargazers.

According to UTNews, the unique design of the GMT combines seven of the largest mirrors that can be built, with each of them 8.4 meters (27.5 feet) wide, to create a single telescope 25 meters in diameter. The massive mirrors, which are being developed at the University of Arizona's Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory, must be polished to a precision of 25 nanometers (one-millionth of an inch).

The telescope will assist scientists and astronomers in characterizing planets orbiting other stars, as well as observing the early formation of galaxies and stars and acquiring more information about dark matter and dark energy, UTNews added. The GMT's discoveries and findings could prompt more questions leading to new and surprising discoveries about the cosmos.

The telescope will also allow scientists to observe galaxies whose light has been traveling towards Earth since shortly after the Big Bang took place 13.8 billion years ago, The Economic Times noted.

The GMT Organization board of directors formally approved the project's construction phase early this year, UTNews wrote. This was done after the 11 international founders -- who came from the U.S., Brazil, Australia, and South Korea -- invested more than $500 million for the project.

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