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World's largest optical scope to be built in Hawai'i, will serve as a time machine

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 16th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The world's largest optical telescope is going up in Hawaii. The 30 meter telescope will be set up at the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, and will see with greater detail than any modern optical telescope in existence.

KONA, HI (Catholic Online) The summit of Mauna Kea will soon feature a new dome and inside it, the world's largest optical telescope. Built at a cost of $1 billion, it will allow astronomers to see how the universe looked 13 billion years ago, just after its creation. In this sense, astronomers are in fact building a time machine of sorts.

The telescope will have a 30 meter mirror, which will give it about nine times the power of the most powerful optical telescope in existence. The size of the mirror matters. The larger the mirror, the more light it can gather and thus the fainter the objects are that can be seen.

The massive telescope will also permit astronomers to see more detail, including individual planets around other stars.

The approval to build the scope came last week and it was given amid protests from Hawaiian natives and environmentalists who say the summit is sacred and is a habitat for rare species including a type of seed bug. At 13,796 feet, few organisms live on the summit.

The permit came with requirements that employees be trained in culture and natural resources.

The summit of Mauna Kea is high and cold, and often covered in snow. The altitude places the scope above most clouds and its Pacific location keeps it free from most air pollution.

The scope should help astronomers unlock a great many mysteries about the universe, and could even be used in observations that could help detect life on other planets, if it exists.

While the scope will be the world's largest optical instrument, it will not hold the title for long. Due for imminent construction is the European Extremely Large Telescope, featuring a 42-meters mirror.

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