Please pass the SALT

By on April 24, 2006

The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, with a hexagonal mirror array 11 metres across. Although very similar to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) in Texas, SALT has a redesigned optical system using more of the mirror array. It will be able to record distant stars, galaxies and quasars a billion times too faint to be seen with the unaided eye – as faint as a candle flame at the distance of the moon.

What are some of the questions they hope to answer with SALT?

How did giant planets like Jupiter form? What is their relationship to the ‘failed stars’ we call ‘brown dwarfs’? Why are the assemblies of billions of suns we call galaxies organised in ‘bubbles’, ‘walls’ and ‘superclusters’? On the largest of scales, how did the universe begin, and what will it become? What is the nature of the most violent events in the Universe, namely Gamma Ray Bursters? What is the Dark Matter content of galaxies? How do accreting objects ‘cannibalise’ material?

Some of the pictures are pretty incredible. Also, I have no idea what these specifications mean, but here they are.

I want one.