PHOTOS: World's Largest Telescope Unveiled

PHOTOS: World's Largest Telescope Unveiled
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August 6, 2009--A low-hanging sun brightens the fields around the dome of the Gran Telescopio Canarias, or GTC, the latest addition to the handful of Earth-based optical telescopes designed to study the heavens.

Crowds gathered last week on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands--a Spanish territory--to watch Spanish King Juan Carlos inaugurate the U.S. $180-million GTC, which is co-owned by Spain, Mexico, and the University of Florida in the U.S.

Boasting a segmented mirror 34 feet (10.4 meters) wide, the GTC is the largest telescope of its kind in the world--for now. Three larger telescopes are slated for completion in 2018: The Thirty Meter Telescope, with its 90-foot (30-meter) mirror, is planned for the top of Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, while the 80-foot (24.5-meter) Giant Magellan Telescope will be built in the mountains of Las Campanas, Chile.

The European Extremely Large Telescope, which currently doesn't have a site selected, will boast an unprecedented 137.7-foot (42-meter) primary mirror.
—Photograph by Pablo Bonet
 
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