Large Binocular Telescope
Alternative namesFirst Light Edit this at Wikidata
Part ofMount Graham International Observatory
Steward Observatory Edit this on Wikidata
Location(s)Mount Graham, Graham County, Arizona
Coordinates32°42′05″N 109°53′21″W / 32.701308°N 109.889064°W / 32.701308; -109.889064 Edit this at Wikidata
Observatory code G83 Edit this on Wikidata
Altitude3,221 m (10,568 ft) Edit this at Wikidata
First light12 October 2005 Edit this on Wikidata
Telescope styleoptical telescope
double telescope Edit this on Wikidata
Diameter8.4 m (27 ft 7 in) Edit this at Wikidata
Collecting area111 m2 (1,190 sq ft) Edit this at Wikidata
Focal length9.6 m (31 ft 6 in) Edit this at Wikidata
Mountingaltazimuth mount Edit this on Wikidata Edit this at Wikidata
Large Binocular Telescope is located in the United States
Large Binocular Telescope
Location of Large Binocular Telescope
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The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) is an optical telescope for astronomy located on 10,700-foot (3,300 m) Mount Graham, in the Pinaleno Mountains of southeastern Arizona, United States. It is a part of the Mount Graham International Observatory.

When using both 8.4 m (330 inch) wide mirrors, with centres 14.4 m apart, the LBT has the same light-gathering ability as an 11.8 m (464 inch) wide single circular telescope and the resolution of a 22.8 m (897 inch) wide one.[1]

The LBT mirrors individually are the joint second-largest optical telescope in continental North America, next to the Hobby–Eberly Telescope in West Texas. It has the largest monolithic, or non-segmented, mirror in an optical telescope.

Strehl ratios of 60–90% in the infrared H band and 95% in the infrared M band have been achieved by the LBT.[2]


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,[3] University of Notre Dame,[3] University of Virginia,[3] 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); Ohio State University; and the Research Corporation for Science Advancement based in Tucson, Arizona, USA. The cost was around 100 million Euro.

The telescope design has two 8.4 m (330 inch) mirrors mounted on a common base, hence the name "binocular."[1] 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-meter (460 in) 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.[4]

The telescope was designed by a group of Italian firms, and assembled by Ansaldo in its Milanese plant.

Mountain controversy

LBT perched on an Arizona mountain

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 went 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 thirteen years, the more recent in the summer of 2017. Likewise the squirrels continue to survive. Some experts now believe their numbers fluctuate dependent upon nut harvest without regard to the observatory.[5][6]

First light

Dome during the day with doors closed

The telescope was dedicated in October 2004 and saw first light with a single primary mirror on October 12, 2005, which viewed NGC 891.[7][8] The second primary mirror was installed in January 2006 and became fully operational in January 2008.[1] The first light with the second primary mirror was on September 18, 2006,[citation needed] and for the first and second together it was on January 11–12, 2008.[9]

The first binocular light images show three false-color renditions of the spiral galaxy NGC 2770. The galaxy is 88 million light years from the Milky Way galaxy, a relatively close neighbor. The galaxy has a flat disk of stars and glowing gas tipped slightly toward Earth's 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 has a light-collecting area of 111 m2, equivalent to a single primary mirror 11.8-meter (39 ft) in diameter, 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.[10] 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

Interior looking down one of the primary mirrors

In the summer of 2010, the "First Light Adaptive Optics" (FLAO) – an adaptive optics system with a deformable secondary mirror rather than correcting atmospheric distortion further downstream in the optics – was inaugurated.[2][11] 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.[11][12] Adaptive optics at a telescope's secondary (M2) was previously tested at MMT Observatory by the Arcetri Observatory and University of Arizona team.[13]

In the media

The telescope has made appearances on an episode of the Discovery Channel TV show Really Big Things, National Geographic Channel Big, Bigger, Biggest,[14] and the BBC program The Sky At Night.[citation needed] The BBC Radio 4 radio documentary The New Galileos covered the LBT and the James Webb Space Telescope.[15]

Discoveries and observations

LBT, with the XMM-Newton, was used to discover the galaxy cluster 2XMM J083026+524133 in 2008, over 7 billion light years away from Earth.[16] In 2007 the LBT detected a 26th magnitude afterglow from the gamma ray burst GRB 070125.[17]

In 2017, LBT observed the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, an uncrewed asteroid sample return spacecraft, in space while it was en route.[18]


Computer systems for LBT
Computer workstation for LBT

Some current or planned LBT telescope instruments:[1]


LUCI (originally LUCIFER: Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Spectroscopic Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research) is the near-infrared instrument for the LBT.[20][21] [22] The name of the instrument was changed to LUCI in 2012. LUCI operates in the 0.9–2.5 μm spectral range using a 2048 x 2048 element Hawaii-2RG detector array from Teledyne and provides imaging and spectroscopic capabilities in seeing- and diffraction-limited modes. In its focal plane area, long-slit and multi-slit masks can be installed for single-object and multi-object spectroscopy. A fixed collimator produces an image of the entrance aperture in which either a mirror (for imaging) or a grating can be positioned. Three camera optics with numerical apertures of 1.8, 3.75 and 30 provide image scales of 0.25, 0.12, and 0.015 arcsec/detector element for wide field, seeing-limited and diffraction-limited observations. LUCI is operated at cryogenic temperatures, and is therefore enclosed in a cryostat of 1.6 m diameter and 1.6 m height, and cooled to about −200 °C by two closed-cycle coolers.[20]

LBTO collaboration

Comparison of nominal sizes of apertures of the Large Binocular Telescope and some notable optical telescopes

Partners in the LBT project[23]

Other MGIO facilities

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Giant telescope opens both eyes". BBC News. March 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-06.
  2. ^ a b Max Planck Society (June 15, 2010). "Sharper than Hubble: Large Binocular Telescope achieves major breakthrough".
  3. ^ a b c "First science from the Large Binocular Telescope". April 13, 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-05-02. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
  4. ^ "LBTI Instruments". Archived from the original on 2012-03-10. Retrieved 2015-06-24.
  5. ^ "The Mt. Graham Red Squirrel". May 24, 2000. Archived from the original on 2008-03-24. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
  6. ^ "Mount Graham red squirrel fall 2005 count announced". Arizona Game and Fish Department. November 17, 2005. Archived from the original on 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
  7. ^ "LBT "First Light" image of NGC891 taken on October 12, 2005". Large Binocular Telescope Observatory. Archived from the original on 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2010-04-25 – via
  8. ^ "Large Binoccular Telescope Successfully Achieves First Light" (Press release). October 26, 2005. Retrieved 2010-04-25 – via
  9. ^ "Large Binocular Telescope Achieves First Binocular Light" (Press release). Large Binocular Telescope Corporation. February 28, 2008. Archived from the original on 2011-07-25.
  10. ^ "LBTI Project". Archived from the original on 2010-08-19.
  11. ^ a b Max Planck Society (June 18, 2010). "Sharper than Hubble: Large Binocular Telescope achieves major breakthrough". SPIE. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  12. ^ "Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie".
  13. ^ Close, Laird; et al. (Center for Astronomical Adaptive Optics team). "Adaptive Optics at the MMT and First Science Results". Archived from the original on 2015-09-02. Retrieved 2015-06-24.
  14. ^ "Big, Bigger, Biggest". National Geographic Channel. Archived from the original on 2011-08-22.
  15. ^ Luck-Bake, Andrew. "The New Galileos". BBC. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
  16. ^ Baldwin, Emily (August 27, 2008). "XMM discovers monster galaxy cluster". Retrieved 2010-04-25.
  17. ^ "First science from the Large Binocular Telescope". Archived from the original on 2009-05-02.
  18. ^ Hille, Karl (September 8, 2017). "Large Binocular Telescope Snags a Glimpse of NASA's OSIRIS-REx". NASA. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  19. ^ "Advanced Rayleigh guided Ground layer adaptive Optics System". Archived from the original on 2013-11-02. Retrieved 2015-06-24.
  20. ^ a b "LUCI – A Near-Infrared Camera & Spectrograph for the LBT". Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. Retrieved 2016-07-05.
  21. ^ Boyle, Rebecca (April 23, 2010). "LUCIFER instrument helps astronomers to see through darkness observable remote MOST objects". Retrieved 2015-09-29.
  22. ^ University of Arizona (April 23, 2010). "LUCIFER allows astronomers to watch stars being born". Astronomy Magazine – Kalmbach Publishing. Retrieved 2016-07-05.
  23. ^ "Project partners". Retrieved 2016-01-20.