We may be able to see the dawn of the universe by 2022.
Construction on the next generation of super-massive telescopes has begun with the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). Last week, the crew broke ground on an Andean mountaintop in Chile — the site of the GMT. Completion could be as early as 2022, and with it will come a deeper understanding of the universe.
"Astronomy is like archeology; what we see in the sky happened many years ago. The biggest expectation is that we find something that we don't expect." — Yuri Beletsky, Astronomer
More powerful telescopes means researchers will be able to see further back into the history of the universe. It's our way-back machine, and the GMT will allow astronomers to see farther. The telescope will measure 25 meters in diameter once completed, dwarfing the 10.4-meter diameter of the Grand Canary Telescope in Africa.
Astronomers will be able to examine the atmosphere of more exoplanets in our ever-hopeful search for life. However, it comes with the knowledge that what we discover may not exist anymore — what we are seeing may have already come to pass.
"Astronomy is like archeology; what we see in the sky happened many years ago," said astronomer Yuri Beletsky of the GMT in an interview with Reuters. "The biggest expectation is that we find something that we don't expect."
What we often perceive as a fixed point in the universe may be long gone. Take the Pillars of Creation:
It appears as a stellar constant, but the Pillars were destroyed by a supernova 6,000 years ago. Yet, to us they still hang in the sky.
Who knows, astronomers may even unlock the secrets of dark matter and energy. According to Bill Nye, “96 percent of the universe is dark matter and dark energy and nobody really knows what that is and it's very reasonable if somebody could figure out what that is — way out in deep space, that same stuff is here somewhere, and if you can figure out what that is, you could, dare I say it, change the world.”
Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker
Photo Credit: YE AUNG THU / Stringer/ Getty