July 24, 2009

Spain Unveils Giant Telescope

A key tool to unlocking the secrets of the universe will soon be unveiled by Spain on the Canary Islands. It's called the world's biggest scope for visible and infrared light.

The Great Canary Telescope (GTC) is as powerful as four million human eyes combined. It promises the ability to look into the darkest and most distant corners of space.

Spain's King Juan Carlos will on Friday officially inaugurate the telescope, which cost more than $143 million dollars to build.

The observatory helps astronomers with a wide range of research, from discovering new planets, to exploring galaxies and analyzing black holes.

Researchers involved in the project believe the device will help "to discover things that are yet to be discovered" and "produce comparable images to those made by space telescopes, but of better quality as the GTC is bigger".

Project director Pedro Alvarez said the GTC will be one of the world's leading telescopes in the coming decade.

The Institute of Astrophysics of the Canaries (IAC) developed the scope. It's composed of 36 separate pieces that form a huge circular mirror.

The IAC says is it is the largest device of its kind in the world and is bigger than the American Keck observatory in Hawaii and the four European VLT telescopes in Chile.

The observatory has been partially functional with its Osiris optical devices since March. 

The devices pick up objects that are visible to the naked eye, such as supernovas.

An infrared camera, called CanariCam, will begin working towards the end of the year, and will be capable of viewing objects invisible to the naked eye.

The camera will allow astronomers to view the formation of stars in the most distant galaxies.

Scientists have debated the idea of using an enormous telescope since the 1980s.

The Spanish government picked up 90 percent of the telescopes $147 million price tag, while Mexico and the University of Florida helped fund the remaining ten percent.


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