Tag Archives: Giant Magellan Telescope

Three Very Large New Optical Telescopes are Under Development

Peter Lobner

Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), Las Campanas Observatory, Chile

The GMT is a new, very large optical telescope facility planned for construction at an elevation of over 2,550 m (about 8,500 ft) in the mountains of the Chilean Atacama Desert. The GMT is comprised of seven 8.4 m (27 ft) diameter monolithic, circular mirror segments arranged in a hexagonal array. GMT will have a total optical surface measuring 24.5 m (80 ft) in diameter, with an optical surface area of 368 square meters (3,860.8 square feet). The GMT is expected to have 10 times the the resolving power of the Hubble Space Telescope.

image  Source: www.gmto.org

GMT will be the largest optical telescope in the world when it sees first light in 2021. It is expected to be fully operational in 2024. For more details, including a 360 degree tour, check out the GMT website at the following link:


On 3 June 2015, the international consortium known as Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO), approved proceeding to the construction phase. You can read this press release at the following link:


European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), Cerro Armazones, Chile

The E-ELT program was approved in December 2012, and groundbreaking for the new observatory occurred in January 2014 in the Chilean Atacama Desert.  When it is completed, E-ELT will be the largest optical / infrared telescope in the world.  Its 39 meter adaptive mirror, composed of about 800 hexagonal segments, will be able to adjust the alignment of individual mirror segments a thousand times a second.

EELTSource: eelt.orgEELT2Source: eelt.org

Detailed information on EELT is available on the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and E-ELT websites at the following links:




Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

The TMT is a new, very large optical telescope facility planned for construction on Mauna Kea, at an elevation above 3,960 m (about 13,000 ft). The TMT will be a wide-field telescope with a 492 segment, 30 meter (98.4 ft) diameter primary mirror, a fully-active secondary mirror and an articulated tertiary mirror. The telescope is designed for flexibility in the choice of adaptive optics (AO) systems and science instruments that can be used for specific observations. TMT will have a light-collecting area of 664.2 square meters (7,148.7 square feet), almost 10 times more than one of the 10 m (32.8 ft) diameter Keck telescopes (also on Mauna Kea), with diffraction-limited spatial resolution that exceeds Keck by a factor of 3. Relative to the Hubble Space Telescope, TMT will have more than a factor of 10 better spatial resolution at near-infrared and longer wavelengths. When completed, the TMT will take over the title of the world’s largest optical telescope from the GMT.

The general arrangement of the TMT, including the segmented primary mirror, is shown in the following diagram.

imageSource: UH, TMT.org

For more details on the TMT, visit the University of Hawaii’s website at the following link:


Particularly interesting is the Detailed Science Case: 2015 for the TMT, which you can find at the following link:


The future of the TMT and other observatories on Mauna Kea is being discussed now by University of Hawaii, the Hawaii Governor’s office and native Hawaiian groups that have been protesting the presence of observatories on the mountain. On 1 June 2015, University of Hawaii issued a press release announcing it’s Implementation Plan for Improved Stewardship of Mauna Kea, with a commitment to provide additional details in July 2015. You can read this Plan at the following link:


I hope that there is a place for the TMT on Mauna Kea.

16 October 2016 Updates:  TMT siting still not confirmed

New hearings on the future siting of TMT on Mauna Kea begin in Hawaii on 18 October 2016.  As a hedge against failing to gain approval in Hawaii, the TMT partners are considering alternate sites, including sites originally considered in the mid-2000s when TMT site selection started. An alternate site in the northern hemisphere is preferred because the two other giant optical / infrared telescopes, the GMT and E-ELT, already are under construction in the southern hemisphere.  Candidate sites in the northern hemisphere include:  San Pedro Martir in Baja California, Mexico and Roque de los Muchachos on the Spanish island of La Palma off the Atlantic coast of Morocco.