|This close-up of the dying star's nebula was recorded in 2009 by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3.|
Scientists are currently hard at work on a new telescope that promises to have 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope — but we're going to have to wait awhile.
So far, only one of an eventual seven massive mirrors has been completely cast and polished for the Giant Magellan Telescope. Each mirror is 27 feet across, weighs 20 tons, and takes a year to polish, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The project's cost? $700 million, reports Space.com.
"We expect to be able to make observations and spectrographic studies of the first stars that formed after the Big Bang," says the VP of the nonprofit coordinating the project, per the Times. "We'll be able to observe the earliest galaxies, as those stars assembled, and answer the question, when did black holes arrive?"
Assuming things go as planned, the GMT will be installed in Chile's Atacama Desert in 2022. If that sounds a long time to wait for better space photos, good news: The current Magellan telescope has just been upgraded to be twice as sharp as the Hubble.
Astronomers have already used the new optics system, called MagAO, to capture a picture of two stars they've never been able to separate before.
"I have been imagining Theta 1 Ori C for over 20 years and never could I directly see that it was in fact two stars," says a scientist from the University of Arizona, per CBS News. "But as soon as we turned on the MagAO system it was beautifully split into two stars just 0.032 arcseconds apart."
As for the good old Hubble, it recently found a blue planet—not that you'd want to visit.