First 20-ton mega-mirror finished-off for massive Magellan telescope

Giant Magellan Telescope will ultimately span 4,000 sq. ft. and explore the heavens with amazing precision

One of the six giant -- 27 feet across, 20 ton -- circular mirrors that will be part of the 4,000 sq. ft., Giant Magellan Telescope that ultimately look for stars, galaxies and black holes has been polished and completed - now for the other five. 

The mirrors will form the heart of the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope, and when complete will provide more than 380 square meters, or 4,000 square feet, of light-collecting area. The mirror has an unconventional shape because it is part of what ultimately will be a single 25-meter (82 feet) optical surface composed of seven circular segments, each 8.4 meters (27 ½ feet) in diameter according to a release from the Carnegie Institution for Science.

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The Giant Magellan Telescope will be located in the Chilean Andes and will explore planets around other stars and the formation of stars, galaxies and black holes in the early universe, according to the Carnegie Institution.

The mirror is made from 20 tons of glass, melted in a rotating furnace until it flowed into a honeycomb mold. Once the glass had cooled and the mold material was removed, scientists at the lab used a series of fine abrasives to polish the mirror, checking its figure regularly using a number of precision optical tests, according to the institution. 

Optical scientists and engineers working at the University of Arizona Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory underneath the UA's football stadium have been polishing the mirror. One of the other mirrors has been cast and a third is set for next year. 

 At the Carnegie Institution for Science's Las Campanas Observatory in northern Chile, earthmovers are completing the removal of 4 million cubic feet of rock to produce a flat platform for the telescope and its supporting buildings.  The telescope is scheduled to come online in about 10 years.

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