Washington: An enormous mirror is set to be cast inside a scorching-hot furnace, marking a key milestone in the development of a future telescope that will collect more light than any instrument built to date.
The Giant Magellan telescope mirror, the third of the seven primary mirrors planned for the observatory, will be 27 feet across and weigh 20 tons when complete.
It will be forged from chunks of borosilicate glass subjected to temperatures of 2,140 degrees Fahrenheit inside a rotating furnace at the University of Arizona`s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab in Tucson.
Once cast and polished, these seven mirrors will be arranged to function as a single mirror 80 feet in diameter, giving the 700 million-dollar GMT a resolving power 10 times greater than that of NASA`s famous Hubble Space Telescope once the new instrument is up and running in northern Chile in 2020.
This sharpness will be achieved with the aid of seven smaller secondary mirrors, which will act as an adaptive optics system that cancels out the blurring effect of Earth`s atmosphere.
Astronomers will use the GMT to detect and characterize exoplanets, investigate the nature of mysterious dark matter and dark energy and study the physics of black holes, among other things, telescope officials said.