Gov't invests in global telescope project

The Federal Government is to invest $88 million in the construction of a giant telescope to further the country’s role in space discovery.

The announcement of Australia’s investment in the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), which will be located in Chile’s Atacama Desert, coincides with the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing celebrations.

The $1 billion GMT, being built by a consortium of institutions from the United States, South Korea and Australia, is said to be the most powerful telescope ever constructed.

Science minister Kim Carr says the images provided by the GMT will be 10 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

“Once the observatory is built, it will be the turn of our astronomers to show once again why Australia is a world-leader in space science,” Carr said. “They will play a critical part in achieving the telescope’s research objectives, which include unlocking the secrets of how planets, stars and galaxies are formed, and how they have evolved since the Big Bang.”

“This telescope will be able to detect objects so far away that we will be seeing them as they were 13 billion years ago – taking us back to the very beginnings of the universe.”

The $88 million in funding, part of on the Government’s $1.1 billion Super Science Initiative announced in the Federal Budget earlier this year, will give Australia a 10 percent share of the telescope and guaranteed observing time.

Carr says the investment will ensure that Australia is at the forefront of global space exploration. It will also create at least 240 local jobs during the construction phase of the GMT.

“Critically, it will also open up opportunities for innovative Australian companies and institutions, which we want to see involved in designing, building and equipping the facility,” Carr said.

This commitment complements Australia’s involvement in the global effort to build the $2.6 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The GMT is due to be completed by 2018.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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