World's Biggest Binoculars

Astronomers open a new window onto the universe.

By Alex Stone|Monday, December 11, 2006
RELATED TAGS: TELESCOPES

After more than two decades of design and construction, the largest telescope in the world will finally be operational by January 2007. Situated atop Arizona's Mount Graham, 10,500 feet above the Chihuahuan desert, the $120 million Large Binocular Telescope—LBT to its builders—is a marvel of modern engineering, with a pair of 27.6-foot mirrors, image-correcting electronics, and a resolution unmatched by any other optical telescope on Earth or in the heavens, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

The payoff, astronomers hope, will be penetrating new insights into a number of fundamental cosmic puzzles, including how the first stars and galaxies formed and whether our solar system is unique. "From taking spectra of galaxies and quasars at the most distant parts of the universe to looking at comets in the outer parts of our own solar system, LBT will do a little bit of everything, and probably even things that we haven't thought of yet," says LBT technical director John Hill.

A Decade of Construction

Building the largest telescope in the world takes years of labor. The images below, taken over the past decade, show various stages of project.
(Click to enlarge)



Construction of an even larger telescope, the Giant Magellan, is happening right now.

Discover reflects on the evolution of big optical telescopes.

Discover demystifies confusing telescope jargon.



Comment on this article
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
DSCMayCover
+

Log in to your account

X
Email address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it emailed to you.

Not registered yet?

Register now for FREE. It takes only a few seconds to complete. Register now »