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NEWS CATEGORIES:NEW! GadgetsScienceTechnologyWebmasterSecurityMicrosoftLinuxAppleGamesTelecomsReviewsEditorialsInterviewsLife and StyleNEWS ARCHIVE >>SOFTPEDIA REVIEWS >>MEET THE EDITORS >> Home / News / Science / SpaceSpaceMeet the Largest Optical Telescope in the WorldThe Gran Telescopio Canarias has recently been commissionedBy Tudor Vieru, Science Editor22nd of June 2009, 12:53 GMTAdjust text size: The Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), or the Great Telescope Canary Islands, is the largest optical observatory completed in the world to date.

With its 10.4-meter aperture and its exquisite position some 2,400 levels above sea level, on top of a volcano, the telescope is best equipped to handle optical images, and can do so with unprecedented clarity.

A team of researchers from the University of Florida, led by Assistant Professor of Astronomy Eric Ford, was the first one to ever use the new facility to gather large amounts of scientific data.The Canary Islands-based GTC was first used to detect a remote, yet familiar, Jupiter-sized planet, whose properties were again assessed, only this time with the help of better scientific instruments.

The exoplanet's star was also observed, as the team wanted to get a better idea of how planets' sizes decreased as they aged.

Additionally, studying this formation also had another purpose.

The UF astronomers sought to figure out how to best tune the new telescope to the rigors of space exploration, meaning that they wanted to make the GTC able to pick up Neptune-, or even super Earth-sized planets around distant stars.

These planets may have a larger chance of hosting life, because they are not entirely made of gas, such as Jupiter- or Saturn-sized ones."The excellent site and large size of the GTC plus the unique filtering capabilities of its detectors will allow astronomers to minimize the effects of Earth's atmosphere.

By repeatedly measuring the color of exoplanets' host stars, astronomers can study the atmospheres of exoplanets â€" and distinguish small planets from other phenomena such as large star spots or binary stars," Ford explained."We made this investment because we want our excellent faculty and students to have as much opportunity as possible for top-class research.

In astronomy, that requires access to the best facilities," the Chairman of the UF Astronomy Department, Stan Dermott, said.

"The University of Florida is a partner not just in the observing sense.

We are also a partner in the sense of being the major builder of instruments for the telescope," he added.The GTC's Spanish-built OSIRIS instrument was used to focus on the HAT-P-3 star, and on its planet, HAT-P-3b.

This is but the first instrument to go on the telescope, whose ultra-precise, computer-controlled composite mirror is able to provide astronomers with pristine images at a high level of detail.

The 36 hexagonal segments of the mirror act like a single unit, and they are able to see the equivalent of a candle from 20,000 miles away, and to resolve the width of its flame from six miles away.TAGS:telescopes | optics | wavelengths | optical | UFSHARE THISShare, bookmark, addDigg this!Add to del.icio.usStumble!Submit to RedditAdd to TechnoratiFurlSlashdot itDownload the PDF version of this articleRating:Good (3.6/5)3 vote(s) Read by 339 user(s) | Add comment | Link to this article Subscribe to news | Print article | Send to friend© Copyright 2001-2009 SoftpediaContact: SEARCH THE NEWS ARCHIVE : Today's News | Yesterday's News | News ArchiveMORE RELATED ARTICLES: Exoplanet Phases Observed in Optical WavelengthsExperts Create New Class of Cloaking DevicesKeeping an Eye on 'Dark' Cosmic ExplosionsNanoneedles May Change the Face of MedicineHigh-Precision LIDAR Created by NIST ScientistsAstronomers See Galactic 'Backbone' of the UniverseNIST Experts Improve Speed-Measuring MethodsSupernova Data Increase Knowledge on Dark EnergyUser opinions: No user comments yet.

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