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World Briefing / Spain

Huge telescope opens in Canary Islands

July 25, 2009|Times Wire Reports

One of the world's most powerful telescopes opened its shutters in the Canary Islands to begin exploring faint light from distant parts of the universe.

The Gran Telescopio Canarias, a $185-million telescope featuring a 34-foot reflecting mirror, sits atop an extinct volcano. Its perch above cloud cover takes advantage of the pristine skies over the Atlantic Ocean.

The observatory is at 7,870 feet above sea level where prevailing winds keep the atmosphere stable and transparent, the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute said. The institute, which operates the telescope, said it will capture the birth of stars, study characteristics of black holes and decipher some of the chemical components of the Big Bang.

Planning for the telescope began in 1987. It was inaugurated by King Juan Carlos.

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