Australian scientists are leading an international consortium that is building one of the world’s most powerful ground-based telescopes. It promises to see further and clearer than the Hubble Space Telescope and unlock mysteries of the early Universe.
The telescope is called MAVIS, or Multi-conjugate-adaptive-optics Assisted Visible Imager and Spectrograph.
It’s a long name for a highly complex instrument that will be the first of its kind.
It aims to remove blurring from conventional telescope images caused by turbulence in Earth’s atmosphere, which is why the stars appear to twinkle in the night sky.
Scientists in Australia say the new technology will allow them to “peer back into the early Universe” and help them explore how the first stars formed 13 billion years ago, as well as monitoring changes in the weather on planets and moons in our solar system.
Images produced by MAVIS will be three times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope that was launched into Earth’s low orbit in 1990 and remains in operation.
Associate Professor Richard McDermid, a scientist based at Sydney’s Macquarie University, says the new telescope will change the way we explore space.
“The clarity gives us two things," he said. "It helps us see a sharper image, but it also helps us gain in sensitivity, so we can see fainter things and we can see them more clearly. That allows us to push into a new frontier of the furthest and faintest things we can see. So, for example the first stars in formation, inside the first galaxies because when we look far away in astronomy we are also looking far back in time because it takes time for the light to reach us. And so, yes, we are really building on the legacy of Hubble but we are going to go deeper and even sharper.”
The ground-based telescope will be installed at a facility in Chile run by the European Southern Observatory, a research organization based in Germany. It will take seven years to build at a cost of $44 million.
The MAVIS consortium is led by The Australian National University, and involves Macquarie University, Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics and France’s Laboratoire d’Astrophysique.