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"The GMT will be the largest optical telescope ever designed and built, and construction has not only already begun, it's expected to see first light in 2023 and to reach completion in 2025"
There was a wonderful article today in Forbes (January 25, 2017 with excellent clear photography, graphics, and writing describing the amazing engineering feat of building the largest optical telescope in the world. It fuses two critical technologies. One is making the largest optical mirrors possible without deformation and grinding them to extremely tight tolerances. The second is using adaptive optics and powerful computing systems to bring seven separate mirror systems together to produce one image. The Large Magellan Telescope has seven separate mirrors, each about 8 meters in diameter giving it a total diameter of 25 meters, close to the size of a basketball court. It will gather more than 100 times the light of the Hubble Space Telescope and more than 5 times the light of the very largest telescopes on Earth now. It has been under construction since 2003 and scheduled for first light in 2023 with complete operations beginning in 2025. That's just 6 to 8 years from now. Everything is on schedule.

Already, the University Of Arizona's Mirror Lab has completing the polishing of the huge 3rd mirror. Each almost circular mirror will have a separate adaptive control system. Each mirror is as large as any mirror anywhere on Earth. All seven mirrors and their resulting images will be combined into one image by a very powerful computer system. Perhaps what is most exciting is that this new astronomical instrument is so powerful that we don't know what new aspects of nature and our universe will be revealed. I enjoyed the article because it was almost jargon free. Also the graphic comparing the size of the mirrors of almost all the major telescopes on Earth made me feel how truly groundbreaking it is going to be. There is a clear and very well written discussion of the elements of the telescope and how powerful and precise all the technologies being fused together will be for astronomy.

It will be able to obtain good images of exoplanets the size of Earth out to about 30 light years. This will be the first time for images any larger than just a few pixels. Magellan will also be able to characterize the atmosphere of exoplanets even further out. What will it mean if we find an nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere that has significant methane and organic molecules only associated with life as we know it? Perhaps one of the most wonderful things about this instrument is that it is likely to make discoveries that we can not imagine. It's facing the unimaginable unknown as hard to conceive of as real time travel or hidden dimensions with separate kinds of universes with different laws of nature. Will fact be stranger than fiction? Find out by reading this wonderful article.

#astronomy #exoplanets #telescopes #discovery #adaptiveoptics #largemagellantelescope

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"The next Mars mission will take place 2 years from now during the Hoffman launch window – when Earth and Mars are the closest to each other." Via +Peter Zsurka

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"Some 40 light-years from Earth, a planet called TRAPPIST-1e offers a heart-stopping view: brilliant objects in a red sky, looming like larger and smaller versions of our own moon. But these are no moons. They are other Earth-sized planets in a spectacular planetary system outside our own.

These seven rocky worlds huddle around their small, dim, red star, like a family around a campfire. Any of them could harbor liquid water, but the planet shown here, fourth from the TRAPPIST-1 star, is in the habitable zone, the area around the star where liquid water is most likely to be detected. "

https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/resources/2159/
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"Nasa astronomers discover new solar system called TRAPPIST-1 where life may have evolved on three out of seven of its planets"

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Mars' North Pole Ice Cap Looks Like a Latte Macchiato 

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Students Take Fantastic Pictures from Space on Lost Balloon
Back in June 2013, five friends in Arizona decided to capture some footage of space by sending a GoPro, camcorder, and phone up in a weather balloon. The team–consisting of college students Bryan Chan, Ved Chirayath, Ashish Goel, Paul Tarantino, and Tyler Reid–built their device, calculated its trajectory, registered with the FAA to avoid interfering with passing aircrafts, and finally launched the balloon in the desert a few miles outside of Tuba City. The friends planned to track the balloon’s progress using GPS on the attached smartphone, but they soon lost contact with the locator after the device floated out of cell phone tower range.

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There's a Lot of Space Out There to Explore :-) Via +Chris Kim A
A universe of 2 trillion galaxies - An international team of astronomers, led by Christopher Conselice, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, have found that the universe contains at least 2 trillion galaxies, ten times more than previously thought. The team's work, which began with seed-corn funding from the Royal Astronomical Society, appears in the Astrophysical Journal today.

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"in a region beginning around 50 kilometers in altitude and extending a dozen kilometers outward is a sweet spot where the temperature ranges between 30ºC and 70ºC (86ºF to 158ºF) and the pressure is similar to Earth’s surface. Life could potentially survive in this zone"
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