Five years after breaking ground on a South African mountaintop near the edge of the Kalahari desert, astronomers today (Sept. 1, 2005) released the first images captured by the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), now the equal of the worlds largest optical telescope and a prized window to the night skies of the southern hemisphere.
With a 10- by 11-meter hexagonal segmented mirror and state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation, the new telescope was constructed by an international consortium of universities and government agencies. Partners include the National Research Foundation of South Africa, the University of Wisconsin-Madisons College of Letters and Science, Polands Nicolas Copernicus Astronomical Centre and Rutgers University, among others.
The new $18 million observatory will provide unprecedented access to the astronomically rich skies of the southern hemisphere. Objects such as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the galaxies nearest to our own Milky Way, will come into sharp view through the concerted focus of the 91 hexagonal mirror segments that comprise the SALT Telescopes primary mirror array.
Eric Wilcots | EurekAlert!
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