Giant Magellan Telescope Organisation (GMTO) has confirmed that hard rock excavation work has started at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile to create the foundations for a massive new telescope.
Work for the mass concrete pier foundation is being undertaken by Minería y Montajes Conpax and is expected to take five months to complete.
The foundations work includes excavation to create a basement structure in the summit rock for the lower portion of the mirror coating chamber and foundations for a utility building and tunnel on the summit.
According to GMTO, the most challenging part of the work will be excavation of the rock to a depth of 7m for the concrete pier foundation. Hydraulic rock hammers and jack hammers will be used to excavate the rock to ensure the integrity of the bedrock below the new pier.
“It total, we expect to remove 13,300t of rock from the mountain and it will take 330 dump truck loads to remove it from the summit,” said GMTO project manager James Fanson.
The Giant Magellan Telescope is expected to be operation by 2024 and will produce images that are 10 times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope in the infrared region of the spectrum and will be used by astronomers to study planets around other stars and to look back to the time when the first galaxies formed.