“For my confirmation, I didn’t get a watch and my first pair of long pants, like most Lutheran boys. I got a telescope. My mother thought it would make the best gift.” -Wernher von Braun
Sure, going to space is great for overcoming Earth’s atmosphere, but it’s no substitute for the sheer size of what we can build on the ground. The current record-holder for largest telescope is 10.4 meters in diameter, and that takes 36 hexagonal segments to get there. But single mirrors can be cast up to about 8 meters in diameter. Thanks to a revolutionary design, the Giant Magellan Telescope will stitch 7 of them together into a single, 25 meter telescope.
It will have 100 times the light-gathering power of Hubble, and will be able to take a number of unprecedented observations. It will measure rotation curves of galaxies up to 10 billion light years away. It will take direct images of nearby exoplanets, both Earth-like ones such as Proxima b and Jupiter-like ones that haven’t been discovered yet. It will measure galactic outflows, molecular clouds and so much more. But the greatest discoveries that await will surely be the ones we can’t anticipate.