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Astronomers, engineers, and technologists are part of an international partnership to design and build the world’s most powerful telescope – the Giant Magellan Telescope or GMT.

The  primary mirror will be 24.5 metres in diameter, the GMT will produce astronomical images up to 30 times sharper than existing ground-based telescopes. Using new techniques currently, this giant eye on the sky will become the platform for unprecedented discovery and insight into the evolution of the universe, galaxies, and planetary systems other than our own.

Specially designed instruments will be used to analyse and record the light that is collected by the GMT. this giant telescope requires giant scale instruments and this presents new challenges to instrument designers and builders.

One of the instruments planned for the GMT, the GMT Integral-Field Spectrograph (GMTIFS), is being designed and built by researchers and engineers at RSAA. GMTIFS is an integral-field spectrograph (IFS), which means that it will record spectra from each point across the field of view simultaneously. This instrument is designed to operate in the near-infrared and take advantage of the light-collecting power and resolution of the GMT telescope.

One of the features that make the GMT such a powerful observing tool will be its advanced adaptive optics (AO) system. This is the technology that removes the distortions caused by the Earth’s atmosphere (the same effect that causes the stars to twinkle). This effect of the atmosphere limits the resolution that can be achieved by ground-based telescopes without AO, so the system will be the key to enabling the GMT to make detailed images of the cosmos.

The adaptive optics systems utilises deformable mirrors whose shapes are continually altered to cancel out the atmospheric distortion, systems of optics and lasers that allow the shape of the distortions to be accurately measured, and complex control systems that coordinate these elements.


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