The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is planning the world’s largest optical and infrared telescope called the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) on the 3,046 m ( 9,993 ft) high, flattened peak of Cerro Armazones in Chile, and the first stone of the E-ELT was laid in a ceremony last week.
The world’s first super telescope will bring us closer to understanding the workings of the universe. The largest optical and infrared telescope will have a main mirror of 39 meters diameter. Well, the name Extremely Large Telescope is there for a reason, and the equipment is designed with an ability to correct atmospheric turbulence, capturing images 16 times sharper than even the Hubble Space Telescope.
The location was chosen on the peaks of Cerro Armazones in Chile for low light pollution, and a high percentage of cloudless nights. The project was approved in 2014, and the entire facility is planned to be built by 2024. The beginning of construction was marked by a ceremony at the Paranal Observatory, 20 kilometers to the east of the E-ELT site. The president of the Republic of Chile, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, and the Director General of ESO, Tim de Zeeuw were present at the ceremony along with many ESO scientists and engineers. The president said in a statement, “With the symbolic start of this construction work, we are building more than a telescope here: it is one of the greatest expressions of scientific and technological capabilities and of the extraordinary potential of international cooperation.”
Once completed, the E-ELT will become the largest optical and infrared telescope in the world, beating even the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope. The structure will weigh 5,000 tonnes including a 3,000-tonnes moving mass, and an 85-meter wide rotating dome. ESO states that the facility will be the largest that has ever been built for an optical and infrared telescope.
With that size, the telescope will be able to explore exoplanets, massive black holes, dark energy, and the formation of galaxies in early the universe. As the Director General ESO explained, “The ELT will produce discoveries that we simply cannot imagine today, and it will surely inspire numerous people around the world to think about science, technology and our place in the Universe.”