King and Queen of Spain inaugurate Largest Telescope in the World

  July 25, 2009 at 9:30 pm by

On Friday, July 24, the King and Queen of Spain officially inaugurated the GTC (Gran Telescopio Canarias) or Grantecan, which is consider the most powerful and advanced telescope with which to observe the universe.

The new “Crown Jewel” is situated at 2,400 meters above sea-level, in one of the top astronomical sites in the Northern Hemisphere: Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (RMO), on La Palma Island, a declared World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, and a place where Jose Miguel Rodriguez Espinosa, director of GCT, said it is an “ideal observation point, because it is scarcely populated and scarcely illuminated.”

The telescope is composed of a main mirror consisting of 36 hexagonal glass-ceramic elements, each with a 1.9 metre diagonal which is equivalent to a round mirror 10.4 metres in diameter. Acording to RMO representatives, the GTC will allow the in-depth study of the nature of Black Holes, as well as the more distant stars and galaxies in the Universe and the first conditions after the Big Bang. It is expected that the telescope would produce important advances in every field of astrophysics.

In its design, construction and assembly have intervened more than thousand persons and a hundred of companies. It has supposed a total investment of 104 million Euros, financed in 90 per cent for the Spanish Government and the Autonomous Community of Canaries in a proportion 70/30, with an important contribution of European funds for Regional Development. The 10% remaining corresponds to the international participation of US (University of Florida) and Mexico (Instituto de Astronomía de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma of Mexico and Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, “ptica y Electrónica). As counterpart, each of these countries will obtain 5 % of the time of observation.

On June 2, 2000, His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias, a well-known astronomy fan, laid the foundation stone of the GTC, and on July 2007 he also attended the “firs observation” of the new telescope.

“With this Observatory, Canaries and its peoples have demonstrated that this land, beyond its enviable tourist offer, offers undoubted possibilities for the development of new initiatives with the join of the rest of Spain”, said King Juan Carlos during the official inauguration.

More information can be found here.

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