|View of the Gran Telescopio Canarias, the world’s largest infra-red telescope taken at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in the Canary Island of La Palma Friday|
Spain is set to inaugurate a huge telescope on the Canary Islands on Friday, billed as the world’s biggest scope for visible and infrared light and set to give astronomers a vital tool to map the universe.
Scientists behind the Great Canary Telescope (GTC) say it is as powerful as four million human eyes combined and will allow researchers to peer into the darkest and most distant corners of space.
The observatory, perched on a mountain on the island of La Palma, will help astronomers with a wide range of research, from discovering new planets, to exploring galaxies and analyzing black holes.
The telescope cost more than 100 million euros (US$143 million) to build.
Its 36 separate pieces form a huge circular mirror which collects light on a surface almost 82 square meters in size, according to the scope’s developer, the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canaries (IAC).
The IAC says is it is the largest device of its kind in the world and is bigger than the American Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the four European VLT telescopes in Chile.
Researchers involved in the project believe the device will help “to discover things that are yet to be discovered” and “produce comparable images to those made by space telescopes, but of better quality as the GTC is bigger.”
Project Director Pedro Alvarez said the GTC will be one of the world’s leading telescopes in the coming decade.
The observatory has been working partially since March with one of its optical devices, Osiris, which picks up objects visible to the naked eye, such as stellar explosions called supernovas.
Toward the end of the year an infrared camera called CanariCam, which picks up objects invisible to the naked eye, will start working.
Built in the US, the camera will allow astronomers to observe the formation of stars and the most distant and faintest galaxies.