The biggest building boom in the history of astronomy is upon us. In Chile and Hawaii and in space, astronomers are getting powerful telescopes that dwarf the current state-of-the-art instruments. When the mountain blasting and the mirror polishing are all done, we will have the clearest and most detailed views of outer space ever.
This boom has long been in the works for years, as billion-dollar telescopes don’t just fund and plan themselves. Now, these telescopes are starting to break ground. "If it all plays out as expected and budgeted," writes Dennis Overbye in the New York Times, "astronomers of the 2020s will be swimming in petabytes of data streaming from space and the ground." Let’s take a closer took at what these billion-dollar telescopes can do for astronomy in the decades to come.