The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) just got a nice chunk of change to help develop and test the advanced technologies that will give the future observatory such sharp vision.
The money, the first awarded to the GMT project by the NSF, "signifies that the observatory will be important for the entire U.S.
"This award really enables us to accelerate our progress on critical components," Shelton said.
The GMT will integrate seven 27.6-foot-wide (8.4 meters) primary mirrors into a single light-collecting surface 80 feet (24.5 m) across — three times wider than any optical telescope operating today.
The big scope will also feature seven "adaptive secondary mirrors" (ASMs), each of which will be 3.3 feet (1 m) wide and just 2 millimeters thick, with hundreds of actuators affixed to its back.
These extreme optics will give the GMT 10 times the resolving power of NASA's famous Hubble Space Telescope, GMT team members have said.
The seven segments must also be "phased" so that they align precisely and perform as a single piece of hardware.
The newly awarded NSF money will help the GMT team demonstrate and practice doing just that at two custom-built phasing testbeds, one at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the other at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
The grant-funded work will take place over three years and keep the GMT on track for "first light" in 2029, team members said!
GMT development is going well overall, Shelton said, adding that the team has not yet seen any major impacts due to the coronavirus pandemic. !
The mount is going through its preliminary design review now, Shelton said.
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