Large Binocular Telescope LBT

The LBT, currently being completed on Mt. Graham in Arizona, consists of two 8.4m primary mirrors mounted in a single structure, 14.4m apart (Figure 8.3). The first primary achieved "first light'' in October 2005, while the second achieved "first light'' in January 2008. The telescopes can be used separately or, by sending the light

Figure 8.3. Schematic design of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona. Courtesy of Steward Observatory, Arizona University, and NASA.

Figure 8.3. Schematic design of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona. Courtesy of Steward Observatory, Arizona University, and NASA.

to a single camera between the telescopes, be used as an interferometer with a maximum baseline of 22.8 m, giving LBT extremely high angular resolution. It is intended to use the LBT Interferometer (LBTI) to search for extrasolar planets through the use of "nulling" interferometry, described in Section 8.7.3, to cancel out the light from stars in stellar systems to leave just the light reflected, or emitted, from nearby planets, and thus allow their direct imaging. In addition to looking for extrasolar planets, LBTI will be able to directly image faint zodiacal dust disks (indicative of planetesimals) around other stars. A survey of a large sample of stars close to our Sun will reveal how common the makeup of our own solar system is and identify which stars have planetary systems potentially suitable for life-bearing, terrestrial planets.

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