The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has given a grant of $ 17.5 million to GMTO Corporation, which is developing GMT and will operate a larger scope in getting up and running once Chili andes At the end of 2020.
GMT President Robert Shelton told Space.com that the money, previously given by the NST to the GMT project, “shows that the observatory will be important to the entire American astronomy community.”
“This award really enables us to accelerate our progress on critical components,” Shelton said. “And I think it allows us to differentiate our stuff to showcase the technical skills of the project team, which is revealed.”
related: Imagination of the giant Magellan telescope in Chile (pictured)
GMT will integrate seven 27.6-foot-wide (8.4 m) primary mirrors into a single light-collecting surface 80 feet (24.5 m) – three times wider than any optical telescope today. The larger scope will also have seven “Adaptive Secondary Mirrors” (ASMs), each 3.3 feet (1 m) wide and just 2 millimeters thick, with hundreds of actuators affixed to its back.
“with them [actuators]”We are able to bend this thin glass surface about 1,000 times every second,” GMTO project manager James Fanson told Space.com. Earth’s atmosphere. Milliseconds to milliseconds, we measure distortion and correct it, so that we can essentially remove the atmosphere above the telescope and get much sharper images. ”
These extreme optics will give GMT 10 times the resolution power of NASA’s famous Hubble Space Telescope, GMT team members have said. Astronomers will use GMT for hunting, for a variety of high-impact projects. signs of life To investigate the nature of dark matter and dark energy in the atmosphere of nearby exoplanets, which dominate the universe but remain largely mysterious.
However doing all this will not be a walk in the park. For example, no single-piece telescope mirror is larger than the GMT primary segment. And the surface of all seven GMT primaries must be of perfection size: the margin of error is just 25 nanometers (1 millionth of an inch) about the width of a glass molecule.
The seven sections must also be “phased” so that they align properly and perform as one piece of hardware. The money from the newly awarded NSF will help the GMT team perform and practice two custom-made phased tests, one at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the other at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The grant will also allow the team to partially build and test an ASM.
Team members said the grant-in-work would last three years and put GMT on track for “first lighting” in 2029. And the benefits will extend beyond GMT, Fansen said, demonstrating that the demonstrated technologies will also be employed by other telescopes in the future.
GMT’s growth is going well overall, with Shelton saying the team has not seen any major impact yet Coronavirus epidemic.
Primary mirror sections 1 and 2 are completely finished, and section 3 is now replaced by Richard F. of Arizona. Caris Mirror Lab is being polished at the university. Shelton said segments 4 and 5 are waiting to be polished, and segment 6 will be inserted in the coming months. (Mirror Lab is doing all this work, from casting to final polishing.)
In October 2019, GMTO announced that it had Signed a $ 135 million contract To manufacture and install telescopic mounts with MT Mechatronics and Ingersoll machine tools, a 1,800-ton precision steel structure that would be GMT’s bones.
The mount is now undergoing a review of its initial design, Shelton said.
“This is what we really have to focus on now, ensuring that the design is going to meet our needs, because literally everything interfaces with the mount – the equipment, the mirrors, everything,” he said . “So it’s really important right now.”
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the discovery of alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.