The Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), the world’s largest optical and infrared light telescope, has been closed for 22 days due to the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano. Equipment at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, specifically on the island of La Palma in Spain, may be at risk due to the accumulation of volcanic ash, which continues to fall all over the Canary Islands like a lava-spewing volcano.
As astrophysicist Romano Corradi, director of the observatory for El País, explained, “The risks are clear: There is a serious risk that volcanic ash and metal particles can damage the telescope’s delicate reflective surfaces (lenses and mirrors), as well as the structure itself.” They are “like blades” falling on reflective surfaces, which are so polished that if the lens were the size of the entire Iberian Peninsula, the only noticeable anomaly would be just a few centimeters.
The height of the telescope is 41 meters, it is located on a mountain with a height of 2,300 meters, which is also the source of income for many residents of the island of La Palma, some of whom lost everything in the destruction of lava rivers. “Many of my 55 colleagues are directly affected by this tragedy. Some lost their homes, others had to flee. This is what one GTC employee stands for.
Romano Corradi predicts that the observatory won’t open to the public “anytime soon,” not least because there’s plenty of cleanup to be done: Every day ash covers the entire structure, blackening the windows and even doing so. pile inside.
GTC opened in 2009 and represents an investment of 130 million euros. It has already made some important discoveries, such as the discovery of primordial stars, which are essential to understanding the early moments of the universe.
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