King of Spain inaugurates giant telescope on La Palma

25th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain's King Juan Carlos on Friday inaugurated a huge telescope on the Canary Islands, billed as the world's biggest scope for visible and infrared light.

La Palma - Spain's King Juan Carlos on Friday inaugurated a huge telescope on the Canary Islands, billed as the world's biggest scope for visible and infrared light.

Scientists behind the Great Canary Telescope (GTC) say it marks a big technological step forward and will allow researchers to peer into the darkest and most distant corners of space.

The telescope, housed in a mountaintop observatory on the island of La Palma, will help astronomers with a wide range of research, from discovering new planets to exploring galaxies and analysing black holes.

At a cost of more than EUR 100 million (USD 143 million), the device is made up of 36 separate pieces.

They fit together to form a huge circular mirror which collects light on a surface almost 82 square metres 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.

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.

The telescope cost EUR 104 million, 90 percent of which came from the Spanish government.

The rest was paid for by Mexico and the University of Florida in the United States.

AFP / Expatica

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