Armed Telescope

At the edges of the visible universe, 45 billion light-years away, sit some of the oldest known galaxies. How they formed and developed is a mystery, but a spectrograph installed on Chile’s Very Large Telescope—functional since March—should help astronomers find answers. The six-foot-wide, three-ton instrument contains 24 motorized robotic arms. Each eight-inch arm controls a mirror that focuses on a single galaxy. As a result, the telescope can collect infrared readings for 24 galaxies at the same time—data that show what they looked like when the universe was only a fraction of its current age. With the simultaneous observations, astronomers can perform faster and more precise statistical comparisons between galaxies than with isolated viewings.

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