Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 06:13 GMT 07:13 UK
Bright hopes for large telescopes
The Gemini project has cost more than £100m
Two new giant telescopes will give astronomers some of the best pictures ever taken of the Universe.
The large mirrors and some clever electronics combine to make the Gemini telescopes 10 times more powerful than those currently in use.
The observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, which covers the Northern Hemisphere, will take its first pictures this week. Its partner, based at Cerro Pachon, Chile, which covers the Southern Hemisphere, will be operational in a year's time.
They have been built by an international consortium which includes astronomers from the US, the UK, Canada, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. The UK has contributed £30m, roughly a third of the total cost.
Deep and sharp
The Gemini telescopes use state of the art instrumentation to produce some of the deepest and sharpest views ever of the Universe at optical and infrared wavelengths.
"We don't know whether the Universe will go on expanding for ever and ever or if it will slow down and stop and collapse in on itself," says University of Leicester astronomer Dr Martin Barstow.
"That depends a lot on how much matter is out there and looking out into space is a way trying to answer that question."