The giant telescopes that will change everything we know about the universe

Image credit: GMTO Corporation / Mason Media Inc.

Space telescopes such as Hubble and Kepler may draw all the attention, but the largest telescopes of mankind They are here on Earth.

Astronomy is essentially about studying light, and when it comes to giant telescopes, it is visually that a case of greater is better. Cue a new generation of large observatories that will be connected in the early 2020s.

The best telescopes are almost always built in the same places on our planet. The dry Atacama desert in Chile is one of the favorites for telescope builders, largely because there are more than 300 clear nights per year, and it is possible to build on cold and cold mountain peaks at 10,000 feet or more.

That places the telescopes well above the hottest and densest part of the Earth's atmosphere, thus preventing distortion.

The Atacama Desert in Chile is among the highest and driest places on the planet | Credit: G.Hüdepohl ( / ESO

(Image: © G.Hüdepohl ( / ESO)

Placing telescopes in the southern hemisphere also guarantees the best possible view of the star more dense fields of the Milky Way. In the northern hemisphere, the Mauna Kea summit of Hawaii is a favorite, as is La Palma in the Canary Islands.

So, why are giant telescopes being built more and more? The successors of the Hubble Space Telescope, such as the [ recently delayed ) James Webb Space Telescope and TESS will make so many discoveries that an army of ground-based telescopes will be required to cast a look more closely.

Each will have a long list of pending tasks, either to detect dark matter, image a supermassive black hole, or study exoplanets. Together, they will form a huge army of eyes in the sky that will change what we know about the universe and our place within it.

Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), around the world

  The Event Horizon Telescope is about to unveil the first image of a black hole | Credit: A. Marinkovic / X-Cam / ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO

The Event Horizon telescope is about to reveal the first image of a black hole | Credit: A. Marinkovic / X-Cam / ALMA (ESO) / NAOJ / NRAO

(Image: © Credit: A. Marinkovic / X-Cam / ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO))

The Event Horizon Telescope was briefly the largest telescope of all The data is still being processed, but very soon astronomers will have something incredible: the first image of a black hole (or two).

It is not an easy image to obtain, a black hole is where gravity is so intense that even light can not escape from within, then how can a telescope take a photograph of one?

The answer is radio astronomy and no less than eight sets of telescopes around the world. [19659003] The EHT last year made simultaneous observations of X-rays and gamma-ray bands in p radio stations in Chile, Spain, the USA. UU., Mexico and in the South Pole.

Basically, they were linked to create an Earth-sized interferometer (a light meter), hoping to detect the horizons of the event (a limit beyond which nothing can escape) of two supermassive black holes: Sagittarius A * at the center of the Milky Way, and M87 at the center of the Virgo Galaxy A.

If they succeed, an answer we will know during 2018, astronomers finally they will have a visual proof that Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity that predicted the black hole's event horizon was correct. [19659022] Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), Chile

  The LSST will contain the largest digital camera in the world | Credit: LSST

The LSST will contain the largest digital camera in the world | Credit: LSST

(Image: © LSST)

When a huge 20 meter near-Earth asteroid hit Chelyabinsk in 2013, he suddenly realized that the Earth is a duck sitting on space. Worse yet, no one was monitoring the incoming asteroids.

This, fortunately, is already changing, but by the year 2022 LSST will be inspecting the sky for potentially dangerous asteroids, and more.

An international project scheduled to last a decade, the 3,200-megapixel digital camera of the LSST and the 8.4-meter mirror will take 800 photographs every night in six wavelengths, from ultraviolet to near infrared.

In what is advertised as "the best film ever made", each image will be 40 times the size of our Moon, with 15 terabytes of data produced each night from 1,000 pairs of exhibitions. It is set to be the largest scientific data set in the world, allowing astronomers to generate a very detailed map of billions of galaxies, stars and objects in the solar system.

The LSST is being built at the Gemini Sur Observatory in Cerro Pachón in the Elqui Valley of Chile, which will witness a rare two-minute solar eclipse in 2019.

Extremely Large European Telescope (E-ELT), Chile

  The E-ELT will be the new star telescope of the European Southern Observatory | Credit: ESO / L. Calçada Consortium / ACe

The E-ELT will be the new flagship telescope of the European Southern Observatory | Credit: ESO / L. Calçada Consortium / ACe

(Image: © ESO / L. Calçada Consortium / ACe)

Can we take pictures of exoplanets? So far, it has only been possible to find exoplanets from large data sets that detect small changes in the brightness of starlight.

Cue the E-ELT that will try to collect enough light and increase the resolution enough to take pictures of planets orbiting stars in the Milky Way. Your images will be 16 times more detailed than Hubble can handle.

It may be half a world away from its headquarters near Munich, Germany, but the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is stultified with Chile.

You already have ALMA and VLT in the Atacama Desert, and by 2024 this new flagship telescope, the US $ 1.2 billion E-ELT, will land Cerro Armazones at a dizzying altitude of 3,046 m / 9,993 feet.

It is destined to be the largest optical and infrared telescope in the world thanks to a primary mirror of 39 meters that will be formed by almost 800 hexagonal segments.

In addition to studying exoplanets, the E-ELT will study the first galaxies and directly measure the acceleration velocity of our expanding universe .

Magallanes Giant Telescope (GMT), Chile

(Image: © GMTO Corporation / Mason Media Inc.)

When completed in 2023, this telescope US $ 700 million will be the world's largest optical optical telescope. Inside there will be a huge 24.5 m mirror.

With new data on TESS exoplanets, it is likely that GMT is used to investigate its chemistry.

"As a planet passes in front of its star, a large telescope on the ground, such as the GMT, can use spectra to search for the fingerprints of molecules in the planetary atmosphere," says Patrick McCarthy, Ph.D. ., Vice President of Operations and External Relations, GMTO.

Although it is being built at the Las Campanas Observatory in the Atacama Desert, and well above the thickest part of the Earth's atmosphere at 2,550 m / 8,500 ft, the GMT will also include a technology to correct any heat distortion.

"As light from stars and distant planets pass through the Earth's atmosphere, irregularities in air temperature and density distort the image, just as hot air on the pavement makes the images shine," explains McCarthy.

Adaptive Optics Cue, a technique to eliminate that blurry effect and restore the full power of a telescope. "With adaptive optics we can create images of planets, and with images we can look for color variations due to the characteristics of the climate and the surface."

The GMT images will be 10 times more detailed than the Hubble Space Telescope.

Just a century ago, astronomers thought that the Milky Way was the entire universe. With these giant telescopes, we could be on the cusp of photographing distant planets, black holes and monitoring what is happening around the Earth with new and surprising details.