Site found for biggest telescope

An artist's impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope

An artist's impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope in its enclosure, which will be around 90m high and 90m wide.

The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) programme office has studied five potential sites for the future E-ELT observatory, which, at 42 metres diameter, will be the world’s biggest eye on the sky.

Various aspects need to be considered in the site selection process. Parameters taken into account are not restricted to ‘sky quality’, but include more general scientific aspects, as well as parameters essential for construction and operations (eg. accessibility, water and power supply, political stability etc).

A report has confirmed that the sites examined in the final short list—Armazones, Ventarrones, Tolonchar and Vizcachas in Chile, and La Palma in Spain—all have very good conditions for astronomical observing, each one with its particular strengths.

The report concludes that Cerro Armazones, near Paranal in Chile, stands out as the clearly preferred site, because it has the best balance of sky quality across all aspects and it can be operated in an integrated fashion with the existing ESO Paranal Observatory.

Extremely Large Telescopes are considered worldwide as one of the highest priorities in ground-based astronomy. They will vastly advance astrophysical knowledge, allowing detailed studies of subjects including planets around other stars, the first objects in the Universe, super-massive black holes, and the nature and distribution of the dark matter and dark energy which dominate the Universe.

The start of operations for the E-ELT is planned for 2018.

Adapted from information issued by ESO / S. Brunier.

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