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24. Gemini Telescopes - Nifty 50

Gemini North Telescope

©1999, Neelon Crawford, from Polar Fine Arts, courtesy of Gemini Observatory and NSF

The U.S.A. and six other countries are participating in the Gemini Telescopes project. NSF funds the U.S.A. part of the collaboration and administers the project for the partnership's members.

For astronomers in the U.S.A. and the six participating countries, access to these state-of-the-art telescopes represents the next greatest advance in telescopes, helping answer questions about how stars and planets form, the structure and evolution of the Milky Way and other galaxies and the age and evolution of the universe.

Gemini consists of two 8-meter telescopes that together can explore the entire northern and southern skies in optical and infrared light. Gemini North was commissioned in June 1999 near the Mauna Kea summit on the big island of Hawaii.

Gemini South is under construction on Cerro Pachon in northern Chile. The first Gemini observations were made in 1999 with the Gemini North telescope. These images are among the sharpest ever obtained by a ground-based telescope, roughly the equivalent of resolving the separation between a set of auto headlights from 2,000 miles.

The telescopes employ new mirror technologies that allow large, thin, computer-adjusted mirrors to collect and focus starlight with extraordinary precision. These technologies make it possible at times to achieve more clarity than is possible with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Original publication date: April 2000

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