Protection from the Elements
A massive 22-story smart home shelters the Giant Magellan Telescope from harsh weather and extreme earthquakes that the Chilean Atacama Desert is famous for. The 4,800 metric tons enclosure can complete a full rotation in nearly 3 minutes. It’s designed to disappear at night, equalize shifting airflows and temperatures, and reveal the telescope for unobstructed observations as the world’s largest mirrors track celestial targets moving across the sky.
The 4,800 metric tons telescope enclosure can complete a full rotation in nearly 3 minutes as the giant mirrors track celestial targets moving across the sky.
The Giant Magellan Telescope is located in one of the world’s most seismically active regions, experiencing approximately six earthquakes every month. To keep the telescope safe, the enclosure is designed with a dynamic seismic isolation system that can withstand earthquakes up to 8 on the surface-wave magnitude scale (MS) and keep the telescope operational.
Extreme wind and temperature changes can reduce the performance of the telescope’s giant mirrors and cause image blurring. The enclosure solves this problem by preconditioning interior air before nightly observations, opening and closing its wind vents, and raising/lowering its wind screen. This automated climate control system can minimize 24 degree celsius temperature swings in the telescope’s line of sight to provide an optimal observing environment all night long.
The enclosure has a bridge crane for building and servicing the telescope. The crane has a load capacity of 65 metric tonnes and hangs from the top of the enclosure so that it can install and remove the 18 metric tonne primary mirrors for routine maintenance.