Giant Magellan Telescope Will be 10 Times Sharper Than Hubble, But Won't Be Finished Until 2020

If you are impressed by the Hubble Space Telescope, you're going to be blown away by the Giant Magellan Telescope. An enormous mirror is set to be cast inside a hot furnace, marking an important milestone in the development of the future telescope, which will collect more light than any instrument to date.

In fact, the Giant Magellan Telescope will feature a resolving power 10 times greater than that of NASA's famous Hubble Space Telescope, once it is up and running in northern Chile in 2020.

The GMT telescope mirror, the third of the seven primary mirrors that are planned for the observatory, will be a massive 27-feet across and will weight 20 tons when it is complete. It will be forged from chunks of borosilicate glass that is subjected to temperatures of 2,140 degrees Fahrenheit inside a rotating furnace at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab in Tuscon.

Once all seven mirrors have been cast and forged, they will be arranged to function as a single mirror 80-feet in diamater. This will give the telescope a resolving power of ten times that of Hubble's. Sharpness will be achieved with the assistance of seven smaller, secondary mirrors. The smaller mirrors will act as an adaptive optics system that cancels out the blurring effect of Earth's atmosphere.

Astronomers will use the $700 million Giant Magellan Telescope to detect and characterize exoplanets, study the physics of black holes, and investigate the nature of mysterious dark matter and dark energy, among other things.