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Massive Construction Effort Begins For World's Largest Telescope

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the tell-me-when-we-find-huge-and-edible-creatures dept.

Space 74

An anonymous reader writes with this selection from a press release issued by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: "Astronomers have begun to blast 3 million cubic feet of rock from a mountaintop in the Chilean Andes to make room for what will be the world's largest telescope when completed near the end of the decade. The telescope will be located at the Carnegie Institution's Las Campanas Observatory-one of the world's premier astronomical sites, known for its pristine conditions and clear, dark skies. Over the next few months, more than 70 controlled blasts will break up the rock while leaving a solid bedrock foundation for the telescope and its precision scientific instruments."

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74 comments

Ground vs Space (4, Insightful)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | about 2 years ago | (#39459753)

It seems whenever I read an article about something new and great discovered by a telescope, it mentions one of the orbiting sattelite type telescopes.

I can't remember when I last heard from a ground based one, except for routine things as continuously sweeping certain areas of the sky for anomalies, like a space surveillance camera.

Now I don't follow astronomy closely, so my viewpoint is based on what of it gets through to general science news sites.
But are huge investments in ground based telescopes like this still worth it compared to the alternative?

Re:Ground vs Space (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39459839)

Most optical observations are done by the ground-based ones. They're more available (there's more of them than there are of the Hubble), flexible, and they're enormous.

What recent stories are you talking about? Among big media ones, I recall some supernova stuff (ground-based telescopes), dark matter stuff in Abell 520 (ground-based Canada France Hawaii telescope and Hubble), and of course planet stuff (ground-based telescopes). Of stuff that doesn't make it to the media, the bulk of optical observing comes from the ground-based ones.

For the same price as a large space-based telescope, you can build a much larger ground-based one. You have to contend with atmosphere (which is why they're always on mountains), but we're getting better at dealing with that. Space-based telescopes make a trade-off: less light gathering as they're smaller, but potentially higher resolution/clarity as you don't have to deal with the atmosphere.

Non-optical telescopes are different though. The atmosphere is quite opaque to much of the non-optical spectrum; far-infrared, X-Ray, and Gamma Ray instruments do best outside the atmosphere. The microwave observatories are out there as well, though I think that's more to avoid noise than atmospheric opacity, as the CMB is very weak.

Re:Ground vs Space (1)

GNious (953874) | about 2 years ago | (#39460235)

I know next to nothing on this matter, but recall having read that linking ground-based telescopes allows for much better observations/resolutions based on the distance between these telescopes.

If this is the case wouldn't 2+ telescopes in space be able to out-perform any ground-based installations, simply due to there being more, well, space?

Re:Ground vs Space (1)

somegeekynick (1011759) | about 2 years ago | (#39461899)

What you're referring to is interferometry. I came across a news in the last few months that someone somewhere making suggestions along similar lines. As has already been said, space-based observation is comparatively costlier both to build (and send it up) and difficult to maintain or upgrade compared to ground-based installations.

Re:Ground vs Space (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#39462597)

You're talking about interferometry - you improve your resolution at the expense of field of view, but you don't get any more light gathering power. So it's good if you want to look at very small things, but not so good if you want to look at very dim things, or a lot of the sky at the same time.

Very long baseline interferometry is done with radio telescopes on Earth (and soon in space) that might be on different sides of the planet. You can do this because someone figured out how to do interferometry at these frequencies without a direct connection. As far as I know, practical interferometry at visible wavelengths still requires a fibre optic cable between the telescopes - tricky when they're on opposite sides of the planet. I think some researchers are getting close to doing non-linked interferometry with IR though.

Re:Ground vs Space (1)

GNious (953874) | about 2 years ago | (#39462701)

Thanks! Interesting stuff - went googling :)

I normally consider myself a somewhat smart cookie, but this topic makes my head spin a bit too much. Hats off to you for understanding (some of?) it :)

Re:Ground vs Space (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#39476259)

Here's the key (that everyone who talks about it seems to forget to mention): interference is a Fourier transform.

Interferometry is nothing more than letting two (or more) sources interfere with each other, measuring the interference pattern (i.e. the Fourier spectrum), inverse Fourier transforming, and there's your image.

The tricky bits come when you do things like synthetic aperture radar (a moving receiver instead of two receivers), or VLBI (the interference is virtual, inside a computer).

Now, if you want your mind blown, what is the interference pattern in a double slit experiment?

Re:Ground vs Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39464587)

There's a fundamental difference between optical and radio interferometry. With optical interferometry, you're sending the light from both telescopes to a central point, where you combine them. With radio interferometry, you're sending an amplified copy of the radio waves from both telescopes to a central point. The radio method has all sorts of advantages: it scales better to large numbers (50+) of telescopes; transmitting a high-power signal is much easier; and you can even record the signal onto a hard drive and send it by sneakernet if you don't have enough bandwidth.

Unfortunately, if you try to do the same thing with optical light, you hit a quantum mechanical limit: amplifying the signal introduces so much noise that it becomes useless. Somewhere in the IR (between optical and radio), this problem becomes manageable.

Re:Ground vs Space (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about 2 years ago | (#39460443)

I second this -- IIRC they are doing some enormously clever things with sampling and real-time computation to dynamically eliminate atmospheric distortion, in some cases by using two or more scopes looking at the same thing and in others by basically dynamically deconvolving the distortion to a stationary image. There is a resolution trade-off, not just brightness trade-off, in the size of the primary versus the atmosphere, and where we can (perhaps) compensate for the latter the former is hard physics. The only way to give the Hubble better resolution is to build a bigger Hubble, but one can take even older ground-based scopes and add things to improve compensation for the atmosphere.

Re:Ground vs Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39462627)

The atmosphere is quite opaque to much of the non-optical spectrum; far-infrared, X-Ray, and Gamma Ray instruments do best outside the atmosphere. The microwave observatories are out there as well, though I think that's more to avoid noise than atmospheric opacity, as the CMB is very weak.

Radio and microwave observatories are almost always ground-based. The atmosphere has two "windows" - ranges of wavelengths at which it's transparent - and of those two, the radio window is much wider and clearer than the optical window. See, for example, this handy graph [wikipedia.org].

Low-energy gamma ray telescopes are space-based, but very high-energy gamma ray telescopes are ground-based again. This isn't because these gamma rays can make it through the atmosphere, but because when they hit the top of the atmosphere, they make a flash so intense it can be detected from ground level.

Re:Ground vs Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39464603)

Yeah, you're right. I should have specified that the CMB observatories are the ones up there. You should be up-modded, but no one's going to catch your post now :(

Re:Ground vs Space (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about 2 years ago | (#39467639)

You have to contend with atmosphere (which is why they're always on mountains)

... except for the ones that are not. Which are principally radio telescopes.

To extend your discussion ... in addition to ground based telescopes having the potential to be much bigger than space telescopes (the colloquial description is a "light bucket"), they also have the advantages such as being able to receive consumables (e.g liquid helium for cooling IR telescopes, despite being at the bottom of a IR-dirty atmosphere) ; new designs of detector are (relatively) easy to install, trial and improve on a ground-based telescope (I recall that Hubble received an upgrade from 386-equivalent to 486-equivalent processing power in the 1999 servicing mission ; that's some 8 years behind the curve).

Someone else mentioned interferometry ... hard enough to achieve on the ground ; not so easy to achieve in space. But on the ground, you can test things out, revise your telescope designs and light paths ... literally be at the "bleeding edge".

Hardware that gets put into space, particularly where it's not going to get servicing missions, tends to be pretty conservative. Witness the Opportunity rover on Mars, which has recently completed Sol 2900 of it's 90-Sol mission - over-engineered conservative hardware and software, and that's not an insult!

Re:Ground vs Space (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 2 years ago | (#39459921)

It seems whenever I read an article about something new and great discovered by a telescope, it mentions one of the orbiting sattelite type telescopes.

Putting a telescope in space usually requires some governmental involvement (resources, rockets and/or funding). If there are any issues with a space deployed telescope then you're going to need to perform maintenance via spacewalk (e.g., Hubble).

The results of a space telescope are usually better, but they are smaller, much more expensive and need to get past a lot of obstacles.

Re:Ground vs Space (2)

zrbyte (1666979) | about 2 years ago | (#39459967)

Want an awesome space telescope? One word: Kepler [nasa.gov] It is discovering planets orbiting other stars! Hundreds of them! Simultaneously!

Re:Ground vs Space (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 years ago | (#39461081)

plenty of planets have been found by ground based scopes, the closest planet to earth in a star's habitable zone wasn't found by Kepler. And ground based scopes confirm Kepler finds and sometimes are able to perform atmospheric analysis.

Re:Ground vs Space (3, Informative)

rimcrazy (146022) | about 2 years ago | (#39460055)

With the advances in both active (compensation for deformation of the mirror due to gravity and it's position) and adaptive (compensation of the mirror to negate the effects of atmospheric distortion) optics ground based telescopes can come close to if not equal what can be done in space. When you couple the fact that you can build much larger apertures on the ground for significant less money than what is launched into space I wonder why they are still fooling around with space based telescopes.

Hubble has a 2.4M mirror and cost about 1.5B at launch and over it's lifetime a total of about 6B when you figure in all of the shuttle trips for maintenance and the ground support costs. The 10M Keck telescopes cost 94M each when they were built. The James Webb telescope has become a CF of huge proportions with an estimated cost of close to 8.8B through 2018.

Don't get me totally wrong here. Some magnificent discoveries were made with Hubble along with Swift and Chandra. We do need some space based telescopes but the cost of space base instruments is enormous compared to ground based and there are significant advancements that are being made with sensors and other ground base instruments that are pushing the need for space base instruments further out of the picture.

Re:Ground vs Space (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39460253)

Active and adaptive optics help compensate for the factors you mention. But they can't do a thing for wavelengths that don't make it through the atmosphere (UV, deep IR, and so on), and those wavelengths are critical for many modern paths of inquiry.

You're absolutely right about the huge expense of space-based platforms, though, to my ongoing dismay. Growing up in the late 60's/early 70's, I expected so very much more of our near future in space.

Re:Ground vs Space (2)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | about 2 years ago | (#39461391)

Some reasons for a space-based telescope:

* Elimination of atmospheric absorption and distortion. In some wavelengths, the Earth's atmosphere absorbs near 100%, so going to space is the only option there.

* Very long exposure times. Earth-based exposures are limited by how long the night is.

Drawbacks:

* Hard to modify if you have a great new instrument you want to put at the receiver end

* Very expensive

Given those circumstances, we end up with lots of big telescopes on the ground, and a few in space for tasks they are better suited for.

Re:Ground vs Space (5, Insightful)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about 2 years ago | (#39460175)

This is largely an illusion. Most space-based telescopes are run either by NASA or ESA, and both of those organizations have very large public relations offices. These offices issue a lot of press releases and put a lot of effort into getting results from their satellites into the media. The Space Telescope Science Institute was one of the pioneers of this approach to popularizing astronomy, and they were very successful at it. Ground-based observatories tend not to have big public outreach budgets, and usually do not have large numbers of people dedicated to getting their results into the media, so we do not see their results on the front pages of the New York Times or the Economist as often.

Space- and ground-based observatories generally do very different things and complement each other instead of compete with each other. For example, I have used ground-based observatories to take spectra of very faint sources and combined them with X-ray, ultraviolet, and optical observations from Swift and Hubble. The science that comes out of these observations would be impossible without observatories both on the ground and in orbit.

Re:Ground vs Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39467251)

This may be due to the fact that a lot of observations in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum have been carried out by Hubble, since, for a decade, it has been the instrument with the highest resolution and the highest sensitivity in that range. Ground based telescopes often prefer the infrared spectrum, 1um-30um, since there the atmospheric disturbance ("seeing") is lower and can better be compensated with adaptive optics and laser guide stars. but working through the data takes years, maybe even a decade. additionally, the "hot stuff" like planet finding is easiest with telescopes that have their eyes open 24/7 - which is not possible for ground based observations. have a look at http://arxiv.org/archive/astro-ph [arxiv.org] or the VTL / Keck / Subary / CFH / Gemini websites to see what their doing. That's a lot of fascinating stuff, but its also a lot of fundamental research - meaning knowledge, but no pretty pictures.

It'll be the largest optical telescope, IF... (4, Informative)

Shag (3737) | about 2 years ago | (#39459771)

and only if, it's completed before the (larger) Thirty Meter Telescope [tmt.org] in Hawaii, and the (larger still) European Extremely Large Telescope [eso.org] in Chile.

And even if it is completed before TMT and E-ELT, as soon as either of them is completed, it'll lose the title.

Did I mention both TMT and E-ELT are also targeting completion by the end of the decade? Yup.

So, good luck, GMT!

(And it goes without saying that non-optical radio telescopes, which use dishes instead of mirrors, have long been much larger. And that even submillimeter telescopes, which also use dishes, are working on staying larger, with the 25-meter CCAT [ccatobservatory.org] planned for Chile later this decade.)

Re:It'll be the largest optical telescope, IF... (3, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 2 years ago | (#39459891)

Even if it never holds the title for the "World's Largest Telescope", a 28-foot diameter primary mirror is a very big telescope ... and it will continue to work after even larger telescopes are built.

Re:It'll be the largest optical telescope, IF... (2)

pgfuller (797997) | about 2 years ago | (#39459995)

The primary mirror of GMT will be composed of 7 segments - each of which is 8.5m (28ft) in diameter. The overall resolving power will be equivalent to a single mirror 24.5m (80ft) in diameter.

Re:It'll be the largest optical telescope, IF... (5, Informative)

Shag (3737) | about 2 years ago | (#39460333)

Yep, of course. In fact, the telescope I run at my job had "the largest monolithic mirror ever made" from 1999 until 2004 (when Roger Angel started cranking out 8.4-meter ones). Wasn't considered the largest telescope, of course, because segmented 10-meter mirrors of the Keck twins (1992 and 1996) next door to it were larger overall, just segmented.

That said, using the phrase "world's largest" in the headline before the first concrete pour invites comments like mine. ;)

Re:It'll be the largest optical telescope, IF... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39459905)

And these telescopes will be dwarved by future ones. One hundred years from now, we'll probably having giant space telescopes working as a single interferometer with extremely long baselines orbiting the sun beyond jupiter orbit capable of imaging extraterrestial planets.

"Ludicrous Speed" (5, Funny)

zrbyte (1666979) | about 2 years ago | (#39459931)

I just love the naming convention of these telescopes. The guys in the organizational committee must have been watching too much Spaceballs

There's the Very Large Optical Telescope [wikipedia.org], then there's the Overwhelmingly Large Telescope [wikipedia.org] and the European Extremely Large Telescope [wikipedia.org]. What's next? Ridiculously Large Telescope?

Re:"Ludicrous Speed" (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39460065)

They've gone to PLAID! (Particularly Large Array of Independent Dishes)

Re:"Ludicrous Speed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39460205)

Gratuitously Large Array of Dishes.

Re:"Ludicrous Speed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39460417)

Oh that's easy. The next telescope should be called the BFT-9000.

Re:"Ludicrous Speed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39460685)

I can't wait for the "Hard to Believe they Approved Our Huge Budget Telescope" and "Testament of our Massive National Manhood Telescope".

Re:"Ludicrous Speed" (1)

Shag (3737) | about 2 years ago | (#39476903)

Actually, I think they may have already build this one. ;)

The media coverage of the dedication ceremony for the scope I run quoted the Minister of Something-or-other as saying something along the lines of "if we asked for this much money now, we'd never get it." The national economy had just peaked when they started building it, and by the time it was finished almost a decade later, the economy sucked.

(And at $400 million, it's still the most expensive scope on the planet, twelve years into its lifespan.)

Re:"Ludicrous Speed" (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | about 2 years ago | (#39461269)

Maybe they are taking after the USB committee. What are you supposed to do after you give the first revision a name that can't be topped, like Full Speed. My first USB hub was slower than I intended because I thought Full Speed was faster than Hi-Speed.

Re:It'll be the largest optical telescope, IF... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39460427)

and the (larger still) European Extremely Large Telescope [eso.org] in Chile

This is bullshit, of course. If it's in Chile, it's not really very European.

uhm (5, Funny)

Real_Reddox (1010195) | about 2 years ago | (#39459781)

Astronomers have begun to blast 3 million cubic feet of rock

I think you'll find that the people blasting rock aren't astronomers...

sort of like "i built a house" (1)

decora (1710862) | about 2 years ago | (#39460211)

when i actually payed a bunch of people to pay another bunch of people to build it.

Re:uhm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39460237)

Astronomers have begun to blast 3 million cubic feet of rock

I think you'll find that the people blasting rock aren't astronomers...

Maybe, but they'll still be seeing stars!

Re:uhm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39463549)

Astronomers have begun to blast 3 million cubic feet of rock

I think you'll find that the people blasting rock aren't astronomers...

no, they are called metal heads.

Re:uhm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39464895)

Astronomers have begun to blast 3 million cubic feet of rock

I think you'll find that the people blasting rock aren't astronomers...

... unless Juan has tripled the beans in the casuela.

(the singular advantage of a smaller telescope's lack of control room)

Talented lot those astronomers.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39459793)

Astronomers have begun to blast 3 million cubic feet of rock from a mountaintop

..and not only are they avid earth movers, in their spare time Astronomers are also fantastic landscape gardeners.. ..mind the shrubbery...

more than 70 controlled blasts (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#39459809)

And here's me thinking they were going to blow stuff up at random in the hope a telescope would come out of it.

Re:more than 70 controlled blasts (1)

andrew_d_allen (971588) | about 2 years ago | (#39461989)

It's simple: you just remove all the parts of the mountain that _aren't_ a telescope, and you're left with a telescope!

Re:more than 70 controlled blasts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39479719)

Well, they needed something for the monkeys to do after they'd churned out the complete works fo Shakespeare.

Science! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39459859)

As we have learned from Mythbusters, it just isn't science unless you blow something up at some point!

Not the largest (1)

Xhris (97992) | about 2 years ago | (#39459879)

This is hardly the largest telescope being built. At seven 8.5m mirrors, it is equivalent of a 22m telescope. Just last week I was using the Parkes 64m telescope which was build 50 years ago (and it is hardly the biggest telescope in the world).

Oh did they mean largest optical telescope....

Re:Not the largest (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39459903)

8.5 x 7 = 58.5 not 22, idiot.

Re:Not the largest (2)

Xhris (97992) | about 2 years ago | (#39459943)

Obviously you have never done basic mathematics.... 8.5 x sqrt(7) is 22 (close enough). Why sqrt? because a telescope is (essentially) 2 dimensional - we care about the collecting area not the diameter (directly). A 20m telescope has 4 times the collecting area of a 10m telescope. This is really, really simple stuff.

So who is the idiot?

Re:Not the largest (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about 2 years ago | (#39460471)

Physical optical resolution depends on the diameter (directly). Larger area equals more brightness. Larger diameter means smaller angular resolution in the limit, IF one can compensate for other resolution limiting factors, e.g. gravitational and thermal deformation of the mirror(s) and atmospheric effects. Nowadays I believe they largely can, so bigger (larger diameter) is really better, as well as brighter.

Re:Not the largest (1)

Arrepiadd (688829) | about 2 years ago | (#39459961)

Are you suggesting the 7 mirrors will be all next to one another in a long line with 58 meters of length?
If so, you might want to look here [gmto.org] to get a better idea of how it will look like.
And you may want to go here [gmto.org] to see it will actually have a 24.5 meter diameter, which is a lot closer to 22 than to 58.

But hey, don't let facts or the possibility of learning something get in your way... every man deserves the chance to call someone else an idiot.

Re:Not the largest (1)

Xhris (97992) | about 2 years ago | (#39459969)

This is all true, but remember the "holes" between the mirrors don't gain you much. You mostly care about the collecting area. In this case the equivalent collecting area is 22.5m^2

Re:Not the largest (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 2 years ago | (#39461797)

The "holes" gain you resolution at the expense of longer exposure time requirements. That's the whole meaning behind long baseline interferometry. True a single solid mirror is the best for resolution and exposure, but gaining resolution by using interferometry is an acceptable compromise in astronomy.

That poor mountain (1)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#39459977)

Will no one think of the mountains? These ancient citizens of the planet, taking millions of years to form, just minding their own business, and we arrogant humans go and blow the top off of them. Honestly, it's just rude.

Why not on Nullarbor Plain? (2)

MtViewGuy (197597) | about 2 years ago | (#39460041)

I have a question: how come no one has considered using a spot on Australia's Nullarbor Plain to build a giant telescope? Like Chile's Atacama Desert, the Nullarbor Plain has just about no rain and has effective freedom from light pollution, so it would be perfect for a large optical telescope installation.

Re:Why not on Nullarbor Plain? (5, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#39460103)

It's only marginally above sea level, so the atmosphere is too thick for proffesionals. It is however a wonderful sight for the unaided eye.

Advantage of single big telescope? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 2 years ago | (#39460043)

Wasn't a better approach to building telescopes to have multiple smaller ones working in conjunction, spread out across acres of land (or more) ?

Re:Advantage of single big telescope? (1)

Narrowband (2602733) | about 2 years ago | (#39462289)

Wasn't a better approach to building telescopes to have multiple smaller ones working in conjunction, spread out across acres of land (or more) ?

There are two factors that help a large telescope for astronomical observations, resolution and light gathering. Combining smaller scopes (through some process like interferometry) gets you better resolution. There's a limit to what you can do effectively, though and a lot of gear in between has to stay aligned properly to work it. My gut feel for the engineering of it says that the probability of something failing would go up with the square of the number of scopes. For the other factor, the light gathering power (the ability to observe and image dim objects) only comes with surface area to gather more light/photons, and that means larger diameter scopes/mirrors, even if it's multiple larger scopes.

Re:Advantage of single big telescope? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 2 years ago | (#39475205)

Interesting thanks. Can time be traded for the light gathering aspect, almost as if they're interchangeable?

(e.g.: 8 hours with a particular lens size would be as effective as 4 hours with a lens twice as big.)

Where is Greenpeace? (0)

arthurpaliden (939626) | about 2 years ago | (#39460129)

Why are there not any environmental organizations protesting this destruction of mountain habitat.

Re:Where is Greenpeace? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39460273)

Um, mainly because there's nothing inhabiting it.

Well, I suppose that's not strictly true, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Microbes is still having trouble getting organized.

Re:Where is Greenpeace? (3, Informative)

Dusty101 (765661) | about 2 years ago | (#39460353)

Extended and ongoing environmental impact studies are part and parcel of the final process of choosing a telescope site these days. We do try to be very careful to be considerate when building these facilities & work with teams of local environmental biologists. Also, in most cases nowadays, one of the preconditions for site use is that the site is returned to its original pristine state once the telescope in finally removed again.

There is, however, sometimes still local opposition. E.g. in Hawaii, this is usually on native cultural grounds, & nowadays, an effort is made to involve local native cultural leaders (in the early days, some culturally insensitive decisions were made, and both sides of the debate are aware of this).

In the case of Chile, such facilities are often welcomed, as they're much less damaging than the extensive mining operations already in existence there, but still provide good engineering and other technical jobs for Chileans. Plus, many Chileans are proud that their country can boast some of the finest such research facilities in the world.

(Full disclosure: I am both a professional observatory staff astronomer and a longtime member of Greenpeace).

Re:Where is Greenpeace? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39461373)

No whales were harmed in the blasting of this mountaintop.

Re:Where is Greenpeace? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39462623)

It's only 3 million cubic feet. The have a swimming pool in Chile that is twice as big. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Alfonso_del_Mar

earthquakes (2)

ltcdata (626981) | about 2 years ago | (#39460139)

Putting high precision instruments and a big piece of glass in a country that is very prone to earthquakes doesn't seem to be a good idea to me...

Re:earthquakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39464949)

Putting high precision instruments and a big piece of glass in a country that is very prone to earthquakes doesn't seem to be a good idea to me...

... and yet, somehow they've been doing good science there for over 40 years now - a long list of discoveries including SN1987A. Yes, sometimes engineering companies have to redesign the structure [wikipedia.org] when they are reminded of the seismic activity, but earthquakes are short events and are rarer than cloudy nights.

It's highly entertaining when you get a Richter 5 followed by a bunch of Richter 4 aftershocks throughout the night. The control room on the Swope telescope [www.lco.cl] has a glass door on which I found I could do a very convincing earthquake imitation. Took the operator a minute to work out why the guide star wasn't shaking back and forth and answer the door.

- el niño con d

"Astronomers have begun to blast" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39460259)

Duck people! Astronomers are going to blast something, they are not taking any advice from explosion specialists.

To all the idiots... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39461267)

...who set off bombs to kill & damage people: here's something useful you might think about doing instead.

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  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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