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The Largest Telescope in the World is Being Built on a Hawaiian Volcano

Plamena M.Plamena M.

At the top of the dormant volcano Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, construction has begun on the largest telescope in the world - the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The cost of the Thirty Meter Telescope astronomical observation device is valued at $1.2 billion. As its name suggests, it will contain a mirror 98 ft (30 m) in diameter. It will consist of 492 segments.

The new telescope will have 9 times more collecting area than the largest optical telescopes built so far. Through it, scientists will view objects 13 billion light-years away.

Project organizers are astronomers, experts and scientists from TMT Observatory Corp., including collaborators from the California Institute of Technology, a University of California and from the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA). They are confident of the full success of their venture. The 98 ft (30 m) mirror on top of Mauna Kea is expected to begin operation in 2018.

Choosing the dormant volcano Mauna Kea for the project was no accident. Hawaii is far from heavily populated areas. There is a lack of artificial light and atmospheric pollution. This guarantees perfect visibility for astronomers.


Further, the volcano itself is exceptionally well-suited. Its crater is not preserved, it ends with a flat peak at an altitude of 13792 ft (4205 m), rising above the clouds. At this location, the starry sky can be readily observed more than 300 days a year.

According to the project managers, the TMT won't be the largest telescope in the world for very long. While construction is underway, a group of European nations plan on putting the European Extremely Large Telescope into operation in 2018. The diameter of its mirror will be 129 ft (39.3 m).

The year 2018 will be brimming with similar events. Besides these 2 telescopes, another large telescope, the Giant Magellan Telescope, is expected to commence operations. It will be positioned in Las Campanas, Chile with a mirror diameter of 80 ft (25.4 m).