Casting light: Optical Astronomy

THE GIANT MAGELLAN TELESCOPE. CREDIT: GIANT MAGELLAN TELESCOPE—GMTO CORPORATION.
THE GIANT MAGELLAN TELESCOPE. CREDIT: GIANT MAGELLAN TELESCOPE—GMTO CORPORATION.

Optical astronomy and Australia are inextricably linked. They go right back to the naked-eye sky lore of Indigenous Australians, and Cook’s discovery of the continent’s east coast during his South Pacific voyage to witness the transit of Venus.

Today, Australia is home to some of the world’s most productive optical telescopes, studying and mapping the southern skies. But the next generation of extremely large telescopes demand high altitude, mountain-top sites not found locally, so Australian institutions, with the support of the Australian Government, are increasingly investing offshore. Most recently, Australia joined the Giant Magellan Telescope project to construct a 24.5-metre telescope—far larger than any existing instrument—in Chile by about 2018.

Australia contributes more than funding to such projects. The Gemini Observatory—twin 8-metre telescopes located in Hawai’i and Chile—already employs Australian technology for a clearer view through the atmosphere into space. Similar devices, and more, are likely to be fitted to the Giant Magellan Telescope.

PHOTO: THE GIANT MAGELLAN TELESCOPE. CREDIT: GIANT MAGELLAN TELESCOPE—GMTO CORPORATION.

 

Also in this section:

From mapping a continent to surveying the Universe
Mount Stromlo Observatory rising from the ashes
Australian company brings the Universe within range
SkyMapper’s 268-megapixel camera
Keck telescope dons a mask
Seeing a beach ball on the moon
Bringing dark corners of the universe to light
Starquakes reveal family secrets
Sifting sky data
Is the Red Rectangle a cosmic Rosetta Stone?
The destruction of a star