World’s biggest telescope a step closer

Artist's impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope

Artist's impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope

A TELESCOPE TO DWARF ALL OTHERS is on the road to being fully approved in mid-2012, with much of the funding secured and work commencing on the road that will provide access to the remote site in Chile.

The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be an optical/infrared telescope with a main mirror 39.3 metres wide. Today’s current largest telescopes have mirrors around the 10-metre mark.

The European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) huge, 1.802 billion Euro facilitywill be built at Cerro Armazones in Chile’s high Atacama desert.

Artist's impression of the E-ELT alongside the Sydney Opera House

Artist's impression of the E-ELT alongside the Sydney Opera House, to give an idea of scale.

The initial work approved this week includes preparations for the road that will link to the site, and commencement of work on one on the most challenging parts of the telescope…the M4 mirror, an “adaptive optics” mirror that will help to remove the blurring effect of Earth’s atmosphere.

“The E-ELT is starting to become reality,” says the ESO Director General, Tim de Zeeuw. “However, with a project of this size it is expected that approval of the extra expenditure will take time … preparatory work must start now in order for the project to be ready for a full start of construction in 2012.”

Final approval for the E-ELT project is expected to be granted next year.

This video from last year explains more about the amazing E-ELT and the site at which it will be built:

Story by Jonathan Nally. Images and video courtesy ESO.

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