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Sunday, March 9, 2008

World's Largest Optical Telescope Now Operating in Arizona

In this image released by the Large Binocular Camera team, Rome Observatory, is an image taken by the Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham, Ariz., showing a spiral galaxy 102 million light years away. Considered the world's most powerful telescope, it has taken celestial images using its twin side-by-side, 27.6 foot primary mirrors together, achieving first "binocular" light.

Largest Optical Telescope Now Operating..

The world's most powerful optical telescope is now operating on southeastern Arizona's Mount Graham, capturing striking images of objects millions of light years away.

The Large Binocular Telescope — two 8.4-meter diameter mirrors that together gather more light and have 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope — took its first images using both mirrors late last year. The first images were released to the public on Thursday.

There are huge telescopes that operate in other parts of the spectrum — from low-frequency radio waves to far beyond visible light — but no traditional telescope is more powerful.

The telescope is the $120 million crown jewel of the University of Arizona's Mount Graham International Observatory. The telescope is the third atop the 10,500-foot peak, including the Heinrich-Hertz Submillimeter Telescope and the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope.
The largest optical telescope

Measuring 387 inches and 9.82 m, the Keck telescope is known as the world's largest optical telescope. Formerly, the Hale telescope was the largest instrument of its kind until the Keck telescope was built in 1990. It is located at the Mauna Kea Observatory right on Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii. The laboratory sits as high as 4,205 m(13,796 ft.)above sea level. This high altitude provides a good view of the sky above with only a little bit of interruption from other light sources.

The instrument was designed in the form of a reflecting type. It is a telescope whose concave-shaped mirrors absorb light and shows what the focused object looks like. All in all,it consists of 36 separate hexagonal segments of mirrors. Each of these segments measures at about 2 meters(6.6 ft.) across. In modern astronomy,the Keck telescope is of great use in knowing the situation of the galaxy and how it affects the planet Earth. It also shows what is happening on the other planets.
An example of an event where the telescope showed a great importance in the field of astronomy was when the instrument showed precise and valuable images on what the planet Jupiter looked like after certain pieces of fragments from the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fell into it. Another instance was when it proved some scientists' theory that fragments of gamma rays were scattered across the galaxy after the said rays exploded. The Keck also determined and discovered that these fragments are about billions of light years away by measuring how far it is to its optical counterparts in 1997.

The building where the instrument was located is as tall as eight stories high. Placed at about ten meters across the Keck telescope is the Keck 2 which was completed in 1996. These pair of telescopes have strong resolving power which can be compared to a single telescope 90 meters in diameter. It also allowed astronomers to view distant objects throughout the universe.

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