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Space Technology

Canadians Plan to Build World's Biggest Telescope 305

Jerry Rivers writes "If all goes according to plan, Canada will be home to the world's largest telescope. The international project, which has the support of the U.S. Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, is still in the funding stages but when finished it will be roughly the size of a football field. Maybe with this they'll finally find the Restaurant at the End of the Universe."
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Canadians Plan to Build World's Biggest Telescope

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  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by gregbains ( 890793 ) <greg_bains AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:15PM (#13937783) Homepage Journal
    $750 million 10 years to build! This better have some hi-def images of little green men at the end of it
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by isd_glory ( 787646 ) * on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @11:12PM (#13938096)
      Screw looking for little green men!

      Canadians have better things to investigate such as:
      - Are there other inhabitable planets in our galaxy?
      - Can we put a hockey rink there?
    • Someone once worked out the size of telescope necessary to barely discern men on the moon.

      It would have to be 100 meters in diameter, and in space. The Hubble is 2m in diameter. So yeah, we'll have to spend even *more* money to get what *you* want. Bah!
    • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

      by peter303 ( 12292 )
      You have to build in operating costs for 10-15 years. Operating costs include the maintence staff, data distribution and the salaries of dozens to hundreds of scientists who will use the beast. These can be 2-3 times the construction cost over that long period. This brings total costs into the gigabuck range these days.
  • Ack! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Daxster ( 854610 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:15PM (#13937785) Homepage
    The international project,


    Not quite done by Canadians then. Especially if it's getting funding from a US company...
    • Ack your ack (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zeebs ( 577100 )
      From TFA "B.C. engineering company AMEC" and "AMEC started working on this four years ago and was joined by the National Research Council of Canada to draft concept designs"

      Not to mention that it's going to be in Canada, and would be physically built by Canadians in that case.
      • Optics by Bubbles [showcase.ca].
      • Re:Ack your ack (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @12:11AM (#13938407) Journal
        While the rest of your comment is spot on, it's not actually going to be placed in Canada. They're testing possible sites in Hawaii, Mexico and Chile.

        It's a Canadian project with international support. The fact that the U.S. Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics among others are supporting this is because these Canadians have come up with something way beyond the state of the art and demonstrated to the satisfaction of the worlds most knowledgable that they will indeed be able to pull it off.

        In my opinion, this makes the spiteful little jabs that are sprouting up in this discussion are very easy to dismiss.
    • Institute, not company.
    • Re:Ack! (Score:5, Informative)

      by pmj ( 527674 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @11:56PM (#13938330) Homepage
      While I'm sure other countries will get in on a project of this magnitude, I think both the /. summary and the original article in the Toronto Star are incorrect, I've never heard of a U.S. Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics, and I would be very surprised if one existed, since Gerard Herzberg [nobelprize.org] was a Nobel Prize (chemistry) winning Canadian scientist. Not only there, there is already a National Research Council of Canada Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics [nrc-cnrc.gc.ca] in Victoria. A quick google search also didn't show any "U.S. Herzberg Institute".

      Shame on The Star.
      • Re:Ack! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Bozzio ( 183974 )
        I can vouch that they are in fact based in British Columbia. I work for NRCan and deal with them on a regular basis. Well, I don't actually speak to anyone there, but I send them data to process from one of our stations.

        I'm not sure I can talk too much about it, but feel free to check this out:
        http://www.geod.nrcan.gc.ca/ [nrcan.gc.ca]
    • We have lots of space. Our contribution is the colocation.

      okay, and beer.
  • Restaurant (Score:5, Funny)

    by 42Penguins ( 861511 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:15PM (#13937788)
    Maybe with this they'll finally find the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

    Silly editors...by the time the light from the end of the universe gets here, Earth will have been destroyed by the Vogons.

    Oh, and when it happens, let me be the first to say:
    DUPE!
    • Re:Restaurant (Score:3, Informative)

      by fireman sam ( 662213 )
      Actually, the Resturant at the End of the Universe could exist anywhere, even on planet Earth, as the "End" is representive of the universe ending (in another big bang) and not representing the "edge" of the universe as was given in the end of the HHGG movie.

      In fact, I might open a resturant at the end of the universe here and have a grand opening, well, uh, soon... maybe. Be there, or be blown up.
      • Re:Restaurant (Score:3, Informative)

        by tverbeek ( 457094 )
        Actually, the Resturant at the End of the Universe could exist anywhere, even on planet Earth, as the "End" is representive of the universe ending (in another big bang) and not representing the "edge" of the universe as was given in the end of the HHGG movie.

        Response A: It's clearly established that the Restaurant will be located in the ruins of Magrathea, not "anywhere".

        Response B: The prepositional phrase "at the end" is a play on words, and the joke is that it can be interpretted in spatial or tempor

  • Say, if Americans were going to build the world's biggest telescope, the title would not read "Americans Plan to Build World's Biggest Telescope", it would read "World's Biggest Telescope to be Built".

    Why pick out the country that built it?
    • Say, if Americans were going to build the world's biggest telescope, the title would not read "Americans Plan to Build World's Biggest Telescope", it would read "World's Biggest Telescope to be Built".

      Yeah, but that's just because Americans don't tell the difference between "world" and "U.S.". I guess the story should be titled: "Rest-of-the-World Plans to Build World's Biggest Telescope". But I guess it still wouldn't make sense! :-)
      • Say, if Americans were going to build the world's biggest telescope, the title would not read "Americans Plan to Build World's Biggest Telescope", it would read "World's Biggest Telescope to be Built".

        Yeah, but that's just because Americans don't tell the difference between "world" and "U.S.". I guess the story should be titled: "Rest-of-the-World Plans to Build World's Biggest Telescope". But I guess it still wouldn't make sense! :-)


        Yeah, especially since it's on a Canadian newspapers website...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:16PM (#13937793)
    I heard the optics will be coated in maple syrup.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:17PM (#13937797)

    Maybe with this they'll finally find the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

    So you aren't actually familiar with Douglas Adams' work then? Because "the end" refers to the death of the universe, not the farthest reaches of the universe. Unless this new telescope can see into the future (and fiction), it's not going to find the Restaraunt. Looks like somebody's name-dropping to win geek points. Sorry, we can spot fakes a mile off.

  • Time (Score:4, Funny)

    by pete-classic ( 75983 ) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:17PM (#13937799) Homepage Journal
    Maybe with this they'll finally find the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.


    Telescopes look back in time, not forward.

    We might have a shot at a glimpse of the Big Bang Burger Bar, though.

    -Peter
  • "It's got to be a site that's meaningful from an astrological point of view, but we don't want it to be in place that's so hostile that scientists and people won't go there," Halliday said. of course he (probably) said astrophysical
    • I'm sure he was misquoted, but it really bugs me when I (often) see this confusion between astronomy and astrology in the media. At best, it shows the reporter's ignorance of the difference. At worst, it further confuses the public into thinking wrongly that astrology actually has a scientific basis. Sigh.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:23PM (#13937829)
    The telescope refered to in this article is to be the world's largest *optical* telescope. The world's largest telescope will continue to be the Arecibo radio telescope.
  • by CommonModeNoise ( 519251 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:23PM (#13937831) Homepage
    A glorious victory for US scientists -- we seem to have conquered the Canadian Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics. My Canadian colleagues will taste the "lite-beer of defeat" at last ;->
  • NFL or CFL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uncoveror ( 570620 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:24PM (#13937838) Homepage
    A telescope roughly the size of a footabll field? NFL or CFL? A CFL field is much bigger.
    • A CFL field is 110 yards between the goal lines, and each endzone is 25 yards deep if I recall correctly. http://www.cfl.ca/ [www.cfl.ca]
      Rules are listed at that site anyway.

      Way to be ambiguous Sumitter. Don't you know that Slashdot standard sizes only come in "Libraries of Congress" for data, and "VW Bugs" for things that come from, or go up into space?

      Our balls are bigger*. Now our telescopes are too :-)

      *Actual official CFL t-shirt slogan.
    • Well I just assumed it was an AFL [wikipedia.org] football field.
    • The "football field" is a bit like the "pint" (bigger on the east side of the pond), "ton" (metric and otherwise), "cubit", "bread basket", or damn near any other popular unit of measure with a vague subjective connotation, but no objective standard.

      And as a Non-Sporting-American, I object to the use of *ball references in /. articles, you insenstive clod!

  • How large is large? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    When completed this Canadian telescope may well be the largest single telescope.

    However, is it larger than the effective size of the Very Large Telecope [wikipedia.org] array? Or the Overwhelmingly Large Telescope [wikipedia.org] to be built in Chile?
  • Hubble (Score:2, Insightful)

    With Hubble getting rather old, I wonder if this will be its successor. Though I can't help but think that a telescope wizzing around in space would be much more useful than one on the ground. The fact that you don't necessarily have to wait 24 hours to take another look at the same bit of the sky surely has to be an advantage.
    • Adaptive optics goes a long way toward compensating for turbulence. The unique value of a space telescope comes from being able to stare at one point of sky, as you point out, and most compellingly from studying wavelengths that don't get through the atmosphere at all.

      Ground telescopes are good for sky surveys, spectroscopy, and economy (which translates to more available observing time).
    • The problem with Hubble is that with advances in image processing, it is now possible to achieve better-than-Hubble results using ground-based telescopes. We already have higher-resolution and more precise satellites covering the UV and IR ranges. Hubble's main (if not only) asset now is being the only long-range visible-light telescope not limited by atmospheric conditions. Unless NASA decides to go ahead with the Hubble upgrades, Hubble will probably come down within the next ~5 years.
      • Re:Hubble (Score:2, Insightful)

        by courtarro ( 786894 )
        Hubble is aging, yes, and our technology has improved such that a replacement would be far superior, but the fact that it's orbiting outside the atmosphere makes a big difference in the sorts of things it can photograph. Turbulence is one thing, but the UV and IR that is blocked by our atmosphere can be picked up much more easily from space. Personally, I don't see why Hubble can't surpass every other land-based optical telescope on any level except exposure time (due to its smaller optics compared to many
  • Silly editors. Don't they know that the more powerful a telescope, the farther back in time it sees?
  • You know what they say about countries with big telescopes...

    Or was it "Countries with big telescopes are making up for something"?
  • From the article:
    "It's got to be a site that's meaningful from an astrological point of view, but we don't want it to be in place that's so hostile that scientists and people won't go there," Halliday said.
    I sincerely hope those astronomers arent consulting astrologers in the placement of the telescope.
  • "It's got to be a site that's meaningful from an astrological point of view, but we don't want it to be in place that's so hostile that scientists and people won't go there," Halliday said.

    I expect that he didn't.
  • by Council ( 514577 ) <rmunroe@NosPaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:42PM (#13937940) Homepage
    First there was the Very Large Telescope [wikipedia.org].

    Then there was the Extremely Large Telescope [ucolick.org].

    As of a year or so ago, no kidding, they're building the Overwhelmingly Large Telescope [wikipedia.org] (official name).

    So what name does this one get?

    The Staggeringly Large Telescope? Not as big as "overwhelming". The Astonishingly Large Telescope? Also too small. Ditto for "Frighteningly".

    Stupefyingly? Or perhaps the Surpassingly Large Telescope?

    The Horrifyingly Large Telescope?

    Possibly The Nightmarishly Huge Telescope. Or the Blood-Curdlingly Large Telescope.
  • Question (Score:4, Funny)

    by Comatose51 ( 687974 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:46PM (#13937965) Homepage
    "it will be roughly the size of a football field"

    Sure but how many Libraries of Congress (or LoC) of data can it gather per fortnight is what I really want to know.

  • "Maybe with this they'll finally find the Restaurant at the End of the Universe."

    Sure, but we would have had to put our reservations in about 2 millenia ago...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:51PM (#13937981)
    It's Monday morning, and Toronto resident Steve Dorman shares a quick breakfast of "eggs" (a native food) with his "wife" (an officially state-sanctioned mate), and discusses yesterday's poor showing by the hometown team in "baseball" (a popular local sport). After a kiss on his wife's cheek, he hops on the "subway train" (a mode of subterranean transport) to the office.

                This is life in exotic Canada City, the capital set deep in the heart of the mysterious land known as Canada (pronounced CAN-a-da).

                Like his estimated 35,000 fellow countrymen, Dorman is proud to be a "Canadian." Located 120 miles north of Buffalo, NY, Canada is, according to Dorman, "a nation with a government and laws distinct from those of the United States." It also has a military, a system of taxation, and periodic free elections to select political leader s. It even has its own currency, says Dorman, various denominations of "dollars" that can be exchanged for the many products manufactured in Canada, including Canadian bacon and ice.

                Canada City, Canada's largest community, is located in a place called a "province," a subdivision not unlike the cantons of Switzerland. There are 10 Canadian provinces in all, from Nova Scotia in the east to British Columbia in the west. And, much like America's states, nearly every one of the provinces has its own capital. But make no mistake--there's nothing provincial about these provinces. Canada has both feet planted firmly in the 20th century.

                "In fact, Canadians enjoy advancements such as refrigerated food, zippers and printing," notes Dorman, an "accountant" who goes to work wearing the comfortable trousers, dress shirt and necktie that form a traditional Canadian costume. "Our industries are large and varied, ranging from logging to automobile manufacturing."

                Not too shabby for a nation that just 240 years ago had no electricity.

    Canada City
    One area in which Canada certainly has the U.S. beat is languages. Canadians speak not only English, but also French. In fact, according to Prime Minister (roughly Canada's equivalent of a president) Jean Chr&#233;tien, "French is the primary language in some parts of the country, and English is in others. The national language question has divided our nation terribly, with Quebec even recently threatening to leave the union."
                Canada has produced many prominent people who have gone on to great success in hockey. Among them is Colorado Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy, who says hockey is the "national sport" of the Canadianers.

                "It's in our blood, it's part of our heritage, and it brings people together," he says of the sport Canada picked up from America in the late '50s. So appreciative is Canada, it even has hockey teams called the "Oilers" and "Jets," named after its favorite American football teams.

                Despite the language problem and other difficulties, at least one Canadianer is optimistic about his country's prospects in the new millennium.

                "Canada will remain free, proud and strong in t he new century," says Dorman, heading off for another day of what in Canada is known as "work." "Our nation will continue to be a beacon to those throughout the world who value liberty, dignity and human rights."

    Aww, isn't that cute? At times like this, there's really only one thing left to say: Oh, Canada!

    This feature has been provided by the Knight-Ridder news service. It is actually an old The Onion article.
  • by Chirs ( 87576 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @10:55PM (#13938007)
    The telescope is 30m in diameter.

    A football field is roughly 100m long, and 59.4m wide.

    By my calculations, the field is about 8x bigger than the telescope.
    • Not sure which football you're thinking of, but a field used for the sport called "football" by USians is about 110 meters long (including end zones) and about 46 meters wide. In US-speak, it's 120 yards long including end zones and 50 yards wide.

      Still far larger than the telescope, of course.
  • Canadians Plan to Build World's Biggest Telescope

    You misspelled "bong".

  • What *is* the deal with Americans and your obsession with measuring stuff with football fields?
  • Will this help my horoscope be more accurate? It must be so, since the article itself says so....

    "It's got to be a site that's meaningful from an astrological point of view, ..." Halliday said.

  • I thought things were going more towards arrays of smaller telescopes. It's hard for me to imagine a single piece of glass 30 meters in diameter, with any precision at all. Surely the sagging from gravity alone would wreak havoc as it was aimed. Am I totally misunderstanding this project, and why not an array of smaller 'scopes whose total area is pi*15^2?
  • After the exchange rate, this comes to the size of a beaver and will cost $42.69 to build.
  • The article says that the telescope will use a 30 meter diameter lens, which is completely ridiculous, given how much it would weigh, how insanely perfect the glass would have to be, etc. Another article at http://www.ccnmatthews.com/news/releases/show.jsp ? action=showRelease&searchText=false&showText=all&a ctionFor=565556> says: The Thirty-Metre Telescope, called TMT, will dwarf existing telescopes and will be housed in an observatory the size of a large stadium. Unlike current telescopes,
  • by Richard_J_N ( 631241 ) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @11:51PM (#13938308)

    I happen to have the good fortune to work on The Magdalena Ridge Observatory [nmt.edu] Interferometer. We're beginning construction very soon, and it is the successor to the COAST [cam.ac.uk] telescope in Cambridge.

    The advantage of interferometers is that we can have the effective aperture of 400m (so obtaining high angular resolution) without the problem of building and maintaining a distortion-free enormous mirror. Of course, we don't get the sensitivity, but we do get the resolution.

    Incidentally, COAST (Cambridge Optical Aperture Synthesis Telsecope), which was built in the late '80s has a better angular resolution than Hubble (although we do have a lot of atmosphere in the way!), and has managed to sucessfully image detail on the surface of stars.

  • by edunbar93 ( 141167 ) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @12:05AM (#13938376)
    "It's got to be a site that's meaningful from an astrological point of view, but we don't want it to be in place that's so hostile that scientists and people won't go there," Halliday said.

    1. I sure hope you said astronomical, rather than astrological, or the astronomers will shoot you when they find out.
    2. Places that are hostile to people are ideal for telescopes. Keck for instance, is at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. If you want to breathe, generally you do it from a tank. The less air you have between you and the stars the better. As well, it's absolutely imperative that they operate well away from civilization because light pollution destroys the view. And finally, there's this little thing called automation. You don't really *have* to be there to take pictures anymore. The best visual telescope in the world is the one in the most hostile environment of all: in orbit. The only possible way to make it work is by automation.
  • It'll never work, because the US part will assume it's the size of a US football field, and the Canadians will assume it's larger because they use metric "yards"...

    ^====^

  • Space race (Score:3, Funny)

    by Jonboy X ( 319895 ) <jonathan.oexner@ ... u minus language> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @12:41AM (#13938538) Journal
    The Canadian 'scope won't sit for long atop the list of the world's largest telescope. In fact, Poland has already begun construction of a monstrous telescope nearly triple the size of the one planned for Canada.

    The telescope is being installed where the temperature and humidity are nearly constant: several miles underground in an abandoned salt mine.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!

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