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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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That’s not a telescope!

IF CROCODILE DUNDEE had carried a telescope, it would have been an extremely large one … perhaps the largest in the world.

The science and engineering needed to make a telescope that has a primary mirror 10 times the size of world’s largest telescope is truly astronomical. Such telescopes, costing in excess of 1 billion Euro, are currently being designed in both Europe and the United States.

This month Prof. Jason Spyromilio, who heads the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) Project, will present a public lecture on the most ambitious of these designs…an optical telescope with a 42-metre-diameter primary mirror!

The European ELT will be over 10,000 times more powerful than any telescope in Australia, able to image planets in other star systems and directly observe the expansion of the universe, amongst many other scientific objectives.

Size comparison between the European Extremely Large Telescope and the Sydney Opera House.

Artist's impression comparing the sizes of the European Extremely Large Telescope and the Sydney Opera House.

Jason Spyromilio completed his PhD at Imperial College London before coming to Australia to join the Anglo-Australian Observatory (now the Australian Astronomical Observatory) in 1991, where he was the instrument scientist for a number of Anglo-Australian Telescope instruments (and is remembered for augmenting one of them with a Lego train set!).

He moved to ESO in 1994, and has headed the European Extremely Large Telescope Project Office since 2006 (and was the director of ESO’s La Silla Paranal Observatory 2005-2007).

Prof. Spyromilio’s main research interest is supernovae (exploding stars), but he has also worked on comets, brown dwarfs and other cosmic phenomena.

Details:

Where: Long Room, Customs House at Riverside, Brisbane

When: Monday, May 9, 2011, 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Arrangements: Doors open at 6pm. No need to book—just turn up!

Contact: Any questions, please email Andrew Stephenson a.stephenson@uq.edu.au

Refreshments: There will be complimentary drinks and nibblies following the talk, where Prof. Jason Spyromilio will be available to answer any questions

Adapted from information issued by BrisScience / University of Queensland. Images courtesy ESO.

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