One of the world's most powerful telescopes opened its shutters for the first time Friday to begin exploring faint light from distant parts of the universe. The Gran Telescopio Canarias , a euro130 million ($185 million) telescope featuring a 34-foot (10.4-meter) reflecting mirror, sits atop an extinct volcano. Its location above cloud cover takes advantage of the pristine skies in the Atlantic Ocean, The Associated Press reports.
According AFP, Spain's King Juan Carlos on Friday inaugurated a huge telescope on the Canary Islands, billed as the world's biggest scope for visible and infrared light.
Scientists behind the Great Canary Telescope (GTC) say it marks a big technological step forward and will allow researchers to peer into the darkest and most distant corners of space.
The telescope, housed in a mountaintop observatory on the island of La Palma, will help astronomers with a wide range of research, from discovering new planets to exploring galaxies and analysing black holes.
"Basically, a telescope mirror functions like a bucket in the rain: The larger the bucket, the faster you collect water," said Michael Richer, an astronomer with Mexico's Instituto de Astronomia Ensenada who serves as a scientific adviser for the GTC, according to msnbc.com.
"Larger telescopes allow you to collect light faster. This permits the observation of fainter sources — either because they're farther away or because they're intrinsically fainter — or more detailed observations that require more precise manipulation of the light," Richer told Discovery News.