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European Extremely Large Telescope

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European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT

Construction begins on the European Extremely Large Telescope

Chile’s Atacama Desert, will be the site of a powerful explosion on the peak of the 3,000m-high Cerro Amazones mountain at around 2pm local time (7pm BST).

Engineers will blast away a million tonnes of rock to make way for the most powerful telescope ever to be built.

The European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT, could aid the search for alien life and unravel the long-held mysteries of the universe.

It is due to be finished in 2022 when scientists hope it will be able to take direct images of planets orbiting distant stars.

As the name implies, this telescope will be immense. About 2,500 tonnes of steel is already heading to Chile to hold a mirror nearly 130ft (40m) wide.

E-ELT2 in comparison to Big Ben in London

Already called the ‘world’s biggest eye on the sky’, it will capture 15 times more light than any other telescope in existence with images 16 times sharper than those produced by Hubble.

Astronomers said the E-ELT could provide a key information into the first galaxies to form after the Big Bang 14 billion years ago.

They also hope it will help solve on one of the biggest mysteries of our universe, the formation of ‘dark matter’.

‘The E-ELT will allow astronomers to peer deeper into space, further back in time and more intimately into the workings of the universe than any other visible to infrared telescope ever built’, said Dr Aprajita Verma, Deputy Project Scientist for the UK E-ELT project at Oxford University.

‘From probing the first galaxies that formed in the universe, to studying extra-solar planets and looking for signs of life, we can expect break through advances and new discoveries.’

Once the rugged mountain top has been leveled, the $1.1bn E-ELT will have ideal conditions for observing deep space.

Its high altitude means it is far above most of Earth’s atmosphere and water vapour, which would otherwise obscure observations.

The design for E-ELT followed plans for the Overwhelmingly Large Telescope (Owl) which was hoped to have an aperture of 100 metres.

Owl had to be scrapped because of its expensive budget, but Eso said it may still be built.

It’s just one of a number of giant telescopes racing against to be built first.

Two other major project- the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope, are being built to complete with Europe’s efforts.

giant telescope location map

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) is currently under construction on the top of Las Campanas Peak in Chile at an altitude of 8,366 ft (2,550 metres) above sea level.

The GMT is a $700 million project being funded by the U.S, Korea and Australia and expected to be operation in around 10 years.

Meanwhile, the €1bn Thirty Meter Telescope had plans for its 2022 operation approved last year.

It is being constructed on Mauna Kea’s peak in Hawaii which already has about a dozen other telescopes in place.

 

 

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European Extremely Large Telescope

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