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Deep Space Observatories:
The Gemini South Telescope Twin in Chile

Gemini South Telescope in Chile
Gemini South Telescope in Chile
The Gemini South Telescope, perched at a height of 8,895 feet atop the desolate peak of Cerro Pachón Mountain in the Andes mountain range in Chile, officially opened its eyes on Jan. 18, 2002.

One of the world's premier telescopes working at the frontier of global astronomy research and discovery, it is an identical twin to the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii. They are twin state-of-the-art 8-meter telescopes. Gemini South, one of the largest ground telescopes, peers out into the southern skies, doubling the seeing power of Gemini North that tracks celestial objects in Earth's northern skies.

Linked views. The Gemini telescopes are designed to produce extremely sharp images of the Universe in the infrared light. Gemini North and Gemini South can make observations at the same time with each looking at an ara of the sky that is not visible to the other. Astronomers are able to coordinate their observations and view the entire sky above both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

The two telescopes, located as they are on each side of the equator, enable astronomers to view the entire sky above Earth in both northern and southern hemispheres.

Infrared detail. Seeing the Universe in infrared light enables astronomers to look right through the vast clouds of cosmic dust that obscure starbirth regions to the cores of violent galaxies.

Each of the Gemini telescopes has a mirror with a light-collecting area ten times the light-gathering power of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), which orbits above Earth.

Coupled with an adaptive optics system that compensates for distortions introduced by the Earth's turbulent atmosphere, the telescopes will produce images as sharp as those from space. The telescopes were built by a consortium of seven countries.

Gemini South Telescope in Chile
Adaptive optics and advanced electronics
Advanced technology. The 27-foot-diameter, 23-ton, light-collecting mirrors in each give the telescopes extremely sharp infrared vision, producing images as sharp as those taken by telescopes in space.

Early Gemini test images of the constellation Orion, for instance, were said to have reached deeper than any other previous observations of that region of the sky exposing interesting structures not seen before.

The twin. Observing since 1999 from atop Hawaii's volcanic mountain Mauna Kea, Gemini North has contributed several important findings.

For example, it took a picture of what has been called the perfect spiral galaxy. It also recorded the closest substellar object ever observed around another star. And astronomers have used it to look more closely at gas and dust clouds around young stars.

Good seeing. Both telescopes take advantage of the dry thin clean air around their remote mountaintops. Even so, they still counter distortions of starlight as it pasases through the atmosphere. To overcome that problem, they use a technology known as adaptive optics, which corrects the atmospheric blurring.

Using Gemini, astronomers are able to study dusty protoplanetary disks to trace the first steps of planetary birth. Gemini is an international collaboration between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Australia, Argentina and Brazil.

How did it get up there? The Gemini mirror was fused in a lab in the United States from 23 metric tonnes of ultra-iow expansion glass.

From there, it traveled by ship to a lab in France where it was polished to a surface so smooth that if the mirror were enlarged to the size of the United States, no hill would be larger than a speed restriction bump on the road.

The mirror continued on its way with a spectacular voyage by barge through central Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and then by container ship through the Panama Canal to Chile.

Finally, a four-day trip up a narrow mountain road completed the mirror's journey to the remote 9,000-foot summit of Cerro Pachón in northern Chile.

The Gemini mirror can collect more light than two million human eyes. The sharpness of some Gemini pictures is equivalent to separating the headlights on an automobile at a distance of 2,000 miles.

Overhead image of the Gemini South Telescope in Chile
Gemini South sees...
  Gemini test image of Circinus Galaxy
...Circinus Galaxy

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