The erection of a huge new telescope has started taking pace in the Chilean Andes. The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) has now entered the "hard-rock excavation" phase, which will make way for its foundations. The newly initiated digging work will go about 23 feet deep into the rock at Las Campanas. GMT is named after Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese sailor whose expeditions expanded European understanding of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
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Construction services company, Conpax is performing the work at the telescope project site, which is part of Las Campanas Observatory in northern Chile, Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) Corp. representatives said.
Earlier, at the ceremony for the Giant Magellan Telescope Michael Hammer, the United States ambassador to Chile, called the South American nation an "astronomical superpower."
Hydraulic drilling and hammering for the telescope site is expected to take several months. The foundations can then support the weight of the telescope, which is estimated to be about 1,600 metric tons, according to a GMTO statement.
The Giant Magellan Telescope is expected to begin operations in 2024. The project is estimated to cost $1 billion to the company.
"In total, we expect to remove 5,000 cubic meters [6,500 cubic yards], or 13,300 tons, of rock from the mountain and will need 330 dump-truck loads to remove it from the summit," GMTO Project Manager James Fanson said in a statement.
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Scientists believe that the location paired with the telescope will allow astronomers to make some amazing discoveries in many fields, from cosmology and astrophysics to astrobiology.