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Large Binocular Telescope

Large Binocular Telescope
Organization LBT Consortium
Location(s) Mount Graham International Observatory, Arizona, USA
Coordinates [1]
Altitude 3,221 m (10,568 ft)[2]
Wavelength visible to near infrared
Built 1996–2004 by Ansaldo
First light October 12, 2005 (1st primary mirror).
September 18, 2006 (2nd primary mirror).
January 11 – January 12, 2008 (1st & 2nd together)[3]
Telescope style Gregorian binocular
Diameter 8.4 m per mirror
Collecting area 111 m2 (1,190 sq ft)
Focal length 9.6 m (f/1.142)
Mounting elevation/azimuth
Dome co-rotating building, dual parting slits
Website Large Binocular Telescope

The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) is an optical telescope for astronomy located on [5]


  • Project 1
    • Mountain controversy 1.1
  • First light 2
  • Adaptive optics 3
  • In the media 4
  • Discoveries 5
  • Instruments 6
  • LBT consortium 7
  • Additional photos 8
  • Other MGIO facilities 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


The LBT was originally named the "Columbus Project". It is a joint project of these members: the Italian astronomical community represented by the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, the University of Arizona; University of Minnesota,[6] University of Notre Dame,[6] University of Virginia,[6] the LBT Beteiligungsgesellschaft in Germany (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Landessternwarte in Heidelberg, Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Munich and Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn); The Ohio State University; Research Corporation in Tucson.

The telescope design has two 8.4-meter (28 ft) mirrors mounted on a common base, hence the name "binocular".[4] LBT takes advantage of active and adaptive optics, provided by Arcetri Observatory. The collecting area is two 8.4 meter aperture mirrors, which works out to about 111 m2 combined. This area is equivalent to an 11.8 meters (39 ft) circular aperture, which would be greater than any other single telescope, but it is not comparable in many respects since the light is collected at a lower diffraction limit and is not combined in the same way. Also, an interferometric mode will be available, with a maximum baseline of 22.8 meters (75 ft) for aperture synthesis imaging observations and a baseline of 15 meters (49 ft) for nulling interferometry. This feature is along one axis with the LBTI instrument at wavelengths of 2.9–13 micrometres, which is the near infrared.[7]

Mountain controversy

The choice of location sparked considerable local controversy, both from the San Carlos Apache Tribe, who view the mountain as sacred, and from environmentalists who contended that the observatory would cause the demise of an endangered subspecies of the American Red Squirrel, the Mount Graham Red Squirrel. Environmentalists and members of the tribe filed some forty lawsuits—eight of which ended up before a federal appeals court—but the project ultimately prevailed after an act of the United States Congress.

The telescope and mountain observatory survived two major forest fires in eight years, the more recent in the summer of 2004. Likewise the squirrels continue to survive, though experts believe their numbers fluctuate dependent upon nut harvest without regard to the observatory.[8][9]

First light

NGC 891 was selected as first light (this image was taken by the HST).

The telescope was dedicated in October 2004 and saw first light with a single primary mirror on October 12, 2005 which viewed NGC 891.[10][11] The second primary mirror was installed in January 2006 and became fully operational in January 2008.[4]

The first binocular light images show three false-color renditions of the spiral galaxy NGC 2770. The galaxy is 88 million light years from our Milky Way, a relatively close neighbor. The galaxy has a flat disk of stars and glowing gas tipped slightly toward our line of sight.

The first image taken combined ultraviolet and green light, and emphasizes the clumpy regions of newly formed hot stars in the spiral arms. The second image combined two deep red colors to highlight the smoother distribution of older, cooler stars. The third image was a composite of ultraviolet, green and deep red light and shows the detailed structure of hot, moderate and cool stars in the galaxy. The cameras and images were produced by the Large Binocular Camera team, led by Emanuele Giallongo at the Rome Astrophysical Observatory.

In binocular aperture synthesis mode LBT will have a light-collecting area of 111 m2, equivalent to a single 11.8-meter (39 ft) surface and will combine light to produce the image sharpness equivalent to a single 22.8-meter (75 ft) telescope. However, this requires a beam combiner that was tested in 2008, but has not been a part of regular operations.[12] It can take images with one side at 8.4 m aperture, or take two images of the same object using different instruments on each side of the telescope.

Adaptive optics

In the summer of 2010, the "First Light Adaptive Optics" (FLAO) – an [5][13] Using one 8.4 m side, it surpassed Hubble sharpness (at certain light wavelengths), achieving a Strehl ratio of 60–80% rather than the 20–30% of older adaptive optic systems, or the 1% typically achieved without adaptive optics for telescopes of this size.[13][14] Adaptive optics at a telescope's secondary (M2) was previously tested at MMT Observatory by the Arcetri Observatory and University of Arizona team.[15]

In the media

The telescope has also made appearances on an episode of the Discovery Channel TV show Really Big Things, National Geographic Channel Big, Bigger, Biggest,[16] and the BBC program The Sky At Night. The BBC Radio 4 radio documentary "The New Galileos" covered the LBT and the JWST.[17]


LBT, with the XMM-Newton was used to discover a galaxy cluster 2XMM J083026+524133 in 2008, over 7 billion light years away from Earth.[18] In 2007 the LBT detected a 26th magnitude afterglow from the gamma ray burst GRB 070125.[19]


Some current or planned LBT telescope instruments:[4]

  • LBC – optical and near ultraviolet wide field prime focus cameras. One is optimized for the blue part of the optical spectrum and one for the red. (Both cameras operational)
  • PEPSI – A high resolution and very high resolution optical spectrograph and imaging polarimeter at the combined focus. (In development)
  • MODS – two optical multi object and longslit spectrographs plus imagers. Capable of running in single mirror or binocular mode. (MODS1 operational – MODS2 in integration on the mountain)
  • LUCI – two multi-object and longslit infrared spectrographs plus imagers. The imager has 2 cameras and can observe at both seeing limited and diffraction limited with adaptive optics. (LUCI1 operational in seeing limited mode – LUCI2 in seeing-limited mode commissioning)
  • LINC/Nirvana – wide-field interferometric imaging with adaptive optics at the combined focus. (Pathfinder experiment in commissioning )
  • LBTI/LMIRCAM – 2.9 to 5.2 micron Fizeau imaging and medium resolution grism spectroscopy at the combined focus.
  • LBTI/NOMIC – N band nulling imager for the study of protoplanetary and debris disks at the combined focus. (In commissioning phase – first stabilization of the fringes in Dec 2013)
  • FLAO – first light adaptive optics to correct atmospheric distortion
  • ARGOS – multiple laser guide star unit capable of supporting ground layer or multi conjugate adaptive optics. (In commissioning – operational in 2015) [20]

LBT consortium

Comparison of nominal sizes of primary mirrors of the Large Binocular Telescope and some notable optical telescopes (click for detail)

Partners in the LBT project [21]

  • Italy (25%)
    • Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica
    • Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri – Florence
    • Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna – Bologna
    • Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma – Rome
    • Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova – Padua
    • Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera – Milan
  • Germany (25%)
    • Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie – Heidelberg
    • Landessternwarte – Heidelberg
    • Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam – Potsdam
    • Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik – Munich
    • Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie – Bonn

Additional photos

Other MGIO facilities

See also


  1. ^ "LBTO Science and Operations Homepage". 
  2. ^ LBT 2010 Brochure
  3. ^ "Large Binocular Telescope Achieves First Binocular Light" (Press release). Large Binocular Telescope Corporation. 2008-02-28. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Giant telescope opens both eyes". 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  5. ^ a b "Sharper than Hubble: Large Binocular Telescope achieves major breakthrough". 
  6. ^ a b c "First science from the Large Binocular Telescope". 2007-04-13. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  7. ^ "LBTI Instruments". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "The Mount Graham Red Squirrel". 2000-05-24. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  9. ^ "News Media". 2006-05-03. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  10. ^ "". 2005-10-12. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  11. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  12. ^ "LBTI Project". 
  13. ^ a b ""Sharper than Hubble: Large Binocular Telescope achieves major breakthrough"". Max Planck Society. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  14. ^ "Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie". 
  15. ^ "Adaptive Optics at the MMT and First Science Results"Laird Close, et al. – . Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  16. ^ Big, Bigger, Biggest
  17. ^ Luck-Bake, Andrew. "The New Galileos". BBC. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  18. ^ XMM discovers monster galaxy cluster", DR EMILY BALDWIN, ASTRONOMY NOW, August 27, 2008""". 2008-08-27. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  19. ^ "First science from the Large Binocular Telescope". 
  20. ^ "Advanced Rayleigh guided Ground layer adaptive Optics Syste". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  21. ^ "Project partners". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 

External links

  • Website of the LBT in Russia
  • Website of the LBT
  • LBTI at University of Arizona
  • Discovery Park – Guided MGIO tours for the public
  • AO LBT comparison
  • The Big Bigger Biggest program featured the LBT (50:10, YouTube video)
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