Intel Corp. founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty, have donated 200 million U.S. dollars to build the world's largest optical telescope, according to The Los Angeles Times on Thursday.
The telescope will have a mirror nearly 100 feet across and three times the size of the current record holder.
The donation went to Caltech (California Institute of Technology) and the University of California, said the paper.
Caltech officials said matching gifts from the two institutions are expected to bring the total to 300 million dollars.
The universities "are thrilled with the foundation's confidence in the project, and we and our partners are eager to create a history-making tool that will allow us to see farther into the universe than ever before," said Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau.
The final design for the Thirty-Meter Telescope, as it is called, is expected to be completed by March 2009, with construction to begin soon after and completion expected in 2017.
Five sites are being considered for the installation, said project manager Gary Sanders of Caltech. Those include three sites in Chile, one in Baja California and one on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The plan is to select the site by next May, he said.
The technology will be similar to that used in the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, currently the largest optical telescopes in the world.
The new telescope will feature a large central mirror comprising 492 individual hexagon-shaped mirrors, each about 4.8 feet across and about 1.8 inches thick -- a little smaller and thinner than those in the Keck telescopes.
The telescope will also feature adaptive optics that will allow it to minimize distortions caused by atmospheric turbulence. Six laser beams will create bright "artificial stars" in a naturally occurring layer of sodium atoms high in Earth's atmosphere.
Because the intensity of the artificial stars will be known, electronics will allow a small "deformable" mirror in the instrument's light path to fluctuate 800 to 1,000 times per second to correct for the turbulence.
With that correction, the Thirty-Meter Telescope will be able to achieve a resolution higher than that of the Hubble Space Telescope.
That will enable it to analyze light from the first star systems born after the Big Bang, determine the physical processes governing the formation and evolution of galaxies like our own Milky Way, and study planet formation around nearby stars and make observations that test the fundamental laws of physics.