Large Binocular Telescope at The Mount Graham International Observatory

The Giant Twin Mirrored Telescope at Nightfall

Located in the Pinaleno Mountains in Southeastern Arizona, Mount Graham stands as a base for one of the largest and most powerful telescopes in the world. The Large Binocular Telescope is the largest telescope of The Mount Graham International Observatory, which is a division for the research arm of the Department of Astronomy at The University of Arizona

Construction of the Large Binocular Telescope

The Large Binocular Telescope During Construction

The plan to build the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), was a project shared by several institutions:

  • The Italian Astronomical Community
  • The University of Arizona
  • The University of Minnesota
  • The University of Notre Dame
  • The Ohio State University
  • The University of Virginia
  • Several Institutes in Germany for Astronomy, Astrophysics, Extraterrestrial Physics, and Radio Astronomy

Power of the LBT

The Large Binocular Telescope is the most powerful single mount telescope in the world in terms of light collection. It gathers light from the Universe with two giant circular mirrors. Each mirror is 8.4 meters in diameter. This makes the total collecting area equal to a single circular mirror with a diameter of 11.8 meters. The LBT will be used to look for extrasolar planets, search black holes in the centers of galaxies, and look at objects that are still forming a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

Advanced Technology in the LBT

  • Infrared Technology

    • The scientists who built the LBT made plans to combine the light from the two mirrors in what is called 'interferometric mode'. This allows the LBT to achieve images with a resolution about 10 times better than the Hubble Space Telescope. It will be capable of doing this while still being able to maintain a field size of the order one arcminute on the side in the near-infrared wavelength region. The combination of large field-size and high angular resolution makes the LBT a significant tool in exploring the furthest boundaries of the Universe.
  • First Light Adaptive Optics System
    • The secondary mirrors on the telescope are 'adaptive'. The surface of the mirror can be adjusted by computers in to compensate for instabilities in the atmosphere. This allows the telescope to achieve angular resolutions very close to the theoretical limits even when the atmospheric conditions are not perfect. The LBT's adaptive optics system delivered an image quality greater than three times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope using just one of its mirrors.
      With the adaptive optics in place for both mirrors and their light is combined appropriately, the LBT is capable of creating image sharpness ten times that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Works Cited