Chile hilltop razed for world's largest telescope (Update)

Jun 19, 2014 by Patricia Luna
Handout image released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) of an artist's rendering of the future European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) that will be located atop Cerro Armazones, in the Chilean Andes

Construction on the world's largest optical telescope began with a bang Thursday, as workers demolished a hilltop in Chile's Atacama desert.

The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) telescope, being built by the European Southern Observatory, aims to give astronomers new insight into the origins of the universe and help search for potentially habitable planets elsewhere in the galaxy.

Currently, "we have no proof of the existence of an Earth-like planet at the same distance from the sun in our galactic neighborhood," said astronomer Fernando Comeron, ESO's representative in Chile.

"That's not because they don't exist but because we didn't yet have the tools to detect them.

"With the E-ELT, we can."

Construction will take an estimated 10 years, and the telescope will be put into service two years later.

The first step, estimated at $1.4 billion, involves razing around 5,000 cubic meters (177,000 cubic feet) of rock off the top of Mount Armazones.

The newly flat surface will support the foundation of the telescope, with an "eye"—a main mirror—of 39 meters (128 feet) in diameter.

The new telescope's light-collecting surface "will be 10 to 15 times greater than those of existing telescopes," Comeron said.

Thanks to its dry and cold climate, and the lack of light pollution from cities in the remote region, Chile's Atacama desert provides an ideal location for astronomical research.

The ESO, a collaboration involving 15 mainly European countries, operates a number of high-powered telescopes in Chile, including the Very Large Telescope array and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA.

Explore further: Can astronomy explain the biblical Star of Bethlehem?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

E-ELT construction work to start

Dec 11, 2013

At a ceremony at ESO's Vitacura offices in Santiago on 9 December 2013 the ESO Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, and senior representatives of the Chilean company ICAFAL Ingeniería y Construcción S.A., signed a cont ...

World's largest telescope to be built in Hawaii

Jul 22, 2009

(AP) -- Hawaii was chosen Tuesday as the site for the world's biggest telescope, a device so powerful that it will allow scientists to see some 13 billion light years away and get a glimpse into the early ...

China, India to jump forward with Hawaii telescope

Jan 12, 2012

China and India are catapulting to the forefront of astronomy research with their decision to join as partners in a Hawaii telescope that will be the world's largest when it's built later this decade.

Giant Magellan Telescope's third mirror unveiled

Dec 04, 2013

The Giant Magellan Telescope's third primary mirror will be unveiled at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab on December 6, 2013. The combined surface area of the three mirrors created to date surpasses ...

Recommended for you

Can astronomy explain the biblical Star of Bethlehem?

Dec 24, 2014

Bright stars top Christmas trees in Christian homes around much of the world. The faithful sing about the Star of Wonder that guided the wise men to a manger in the little town of Bethlehem, where Jesus was ...

Hubbles spies the beautiful galaxy IC 335

Dec 24, 2014

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the galaxy IC 335 in front of a backdrop of distant galaxies. IC 335 is part of a galaxy group containing three other galaxies, and located in the Fornax ...

Image: Multicoloured view of supernova remnant

Dec 22, 2014

Most celestial events unfold over thousands of years or more, making it impossible to follow their evolution on human timescales. Supernovas are notable exceptions, the powerful stellar explosions that make ...

Ultra-luminous X-ray sources in starburst galaxies

Dec 22, 2014

Ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULXs) are point sources in the sky that are so bright in X-rays that each emits more radiation than a million suns emit at all wavelengths. ULXs are rare. Most galaxies (including ...

When a bright light fades

Dec 22, 2014

Astronomer Charles Telesco is primarily interested in the creation of planets and stars. So, when the University of Florida's giant telescope was pointed at a star undergoing a magnificent and explosive death, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.