University of São Paulo: Meet the giant telescope that will help unravel the Universe


The newest institutional video of the Gigante Magellanic Telescope (GMT) was released on August 24 through social networks. It will be one of the telescopes that will receive a new classification, that of those considered extremely large. The objective will be to observe the formation of the first stars, galaxies and black holes and analyze the properties of planets outside the Solar System.

The giant is expected to start operating in 2029 and will reveal an as-yet-unknown part of the Universe. The project’s Brazilian office (GMTBrO) also intends to arouse the curiosity of young people through dissemination videos, the provision of distance courses for high school teachers and the provision of teaching materials on the subject.

Built in the Andes Mountains, in the Chilean region of Atacama, it will be larger than other existing optical telescopes. The project belongs to the GMTO Corporation, a consortium of universities from the United States, Australia, Brazil, Chile, South Korea and Israel. The Brazilian participation is led by USP’s Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences (IAG). Also participating in the coordination are the Escola Politécnica (Poli) and the Physics Institute of São Carlos (IFSC) at USP, in addition to other Brazilian research institutions.

The further a telescope can see, the older the images. This happens because the light of the stars takes a long time to reach us. So when we look through these super-powerful astronomical lenses, we see events closer to the origin of the Universe than those seen through less robust telescopes.

The GMT has the seven largest monolithic mirrors in the world, which form a total collecting area of ​​368 m². The device adds 2,106 tons of total weight that will float on a layer of oil thinner than a sheet of paper, but enough to practically nullify the friction. The project had a total cost of approximately US$ 1 billion, of which US$ 45 million were invested by Fapesp.

The name was inspired by the Large Magellanic Cloud, observable from the Southern Hemisphere and named by the Portuguese navigator Fernão de Magalhães (1480-1521) simply as the Great Cloud, during his trip around the Earth in the early 19th century.

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