The Giant Magellan Telescope is the largest Gregorian optical-infrared telescope in history. It will use seven of the world’s largest mirrors to see farther into deep space than ever before. Its unique design will produce the highest possible resolution of the universe over the widest field of view. This extraordinary image clarity will enable scientists around the globe to obtain new clues to the fundamental nature and evolution of the universe — from searching for signs of life on distant exoplanets to investigating the cosmic origins of chemical elements.
Las Campanas Peak, Chile
The Giant Magellan Telescope is under construction on Las Campanas Peak in Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the best locations on Earth to view the heavens.
Protection from the elements
A massive 22-story smart home shelters the Giant Magellan Telescope from harsh weather and extreme earthquakes that the Chilean Atacama Desert is famous for. The ~4800 metric tons enclosure can complete a full rotation in nearly 3 minutes. It’s designed to disappear at night, equalize shifting airflows and temperatures, and reveal the telescope for unobstructed observations as the world's largest mirrors track celestial targets moving across the sky.
The supporting structure
At 12 stories tall and 2,100 metric tons, the Giant Magellan Telescope mount is an imposing yet agile structure. The altitude-azimuth mount provides the supporting framework for the world’s largest mirrors, adaptive optics, scientific instruments, and control systems. The steel superstructure sits on a concrete pier that’s 22 meters in diameter and is so stable that it can resist image quality interruptions from even the slightest vibration. While massive, this precision tool is designed to glide frictionlessly in three degrees of freedom so that the 18 metric ton primary mirrors have undisturbed access to study the night sky.
World’s largest optics
The Giant Magellan Telescope’s seven primary mirrors are the world’s largest and most challenging optics ever produced. The primary mirrors are the telescope’s first contact surface that collects incoming light from the night sky. Each 8.4-meter diameter mirror has an astonishingly smooth surface, takes four years to complete, and weighs 18 metric tons. The segmented mirrors have a parabolic shape and are arranged in a unique flower pattern to form a 24.5 meters wide light-collecting surface, the largest of any built telescope to date. The efficient optical design is a world first and promises to see farther into the universe with more detail than any other telescope before.
Adaptive Secondary Mirrors
Making the atmosphere disappear
Ever wonder why stars seem to twinkle? It’s the Earth’s atmosphere causing turbulence and distorting the starlight we can see from the ground. Adaptive optics counteract this natural blurring effect. The Giant Magellan Telescope has seven adaptive secondary mirrors that use the world’s most advanced optical technologies ever developed — as close to magic as engineering gets. The magic mirrors hang above the giant primary mirrors’ light path, deforming their surface at 2,000 times per second as they collect distorted light reflections and clean them up before sending a concentrated beam of light to the telescope’s scientific instruments.
Designed to discover the unknown
Scientific instruments are the superpowers of the Giant Magellan Telescope. The instruments allow scientists to unlock the secrets of the universe by dissecting light into spectra and providing detailed chemical analyses of celestial objects and their origin. The Giant Magellan Telescope can accommodate up to ten instruments at once, more than any other telescope. Each one has a unique ability to explore the unknown: from analyzing a distant planet’s atmosphere in search of life to looking back in time to when the universe first formed. The discoveries they make could rewrite history as we know it… The universe awaits.