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ANU helps build super-sized telescope



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ANU HELPS BUILD SUPER-SIZED TELESCOPE

18 Apr 2011

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) GMT Artwork by Todd Mason. Image courtesy GMTO Corporation, Pasadena, California.

View photos of the Giant Magellan Telescope

Researchers at the Australian National University are helping to build a super-sized telescope that will allow scientists to see deeper into space in the visible light range than ever before.

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) - with a primary mirror the equivalent of 24.5 metres in diameter - will produce astronomical images up to 30 times sharper than existing ground-based telescopes.

Launching the next stage of the ANU’s Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC) at Mount Stromlo in Canberra, Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr

said the GMT promises to answer some of astronomy’s biggest questions.

“It will tell us about the early universe including formation of the first stars and the evolution of galaxies only a few million years after the Big Bang,” Senator Carr said.

The ANU - which is developing instrumentation for the $700 million telescope - is part of an international consortium that will build the telescope in the Chilean Andes.

Senator Carr said the Gillard Labor Government is contributing nearly $90 million towards the telescope through the Education Investment Fund - $65 million for our share of construction costs and $23.4 million to ANU for enhancements to the AITC, development of new instruments for the telescope and for industry engagement.

“This is a huge boost for Australia’s space industry with engineering and research advances at the AITC flowing on to the sector.”

Senator Carr said that funding, on behalf of the ANU and the Australian astronomical community through Astronomy Australia Ltd, would buy Australian astronomers time on the telescope once it is operational later this decade.

“This will be the premier optical-infrared facility for our astronomers. Being part of the consortium building the telescope will keep Australia at the forefront of optical astronomy, complementing the radio-based capabilities of the Square Kilometre

Array (SKA). The association will further strengthen our case to host the SKA.

“Funding will enhance the AITC’s capacity to design and build new instruments for the world's largest telescopes, and confirm our position as leaders in this field.

“Access to space is increasingly important, not only for national security purposes but also for technologies and activities that underpin national economies and modern-day life, including telecommunications, weather and climate monitoring, natural disaster warning, resource management and navigation.

“Our part in building the GMT is expected to create at least 95 highly skilled jobs for Australians and at least 145 other supporting positions.”

For more information on the Government’s support for science, visit www.innovation.gov.au. For more information on the GMT visit www.agmt.org.au.