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: E-ELT construction work to start

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

Astronomers measure weight of galaxies, expansion of universe

2 hours ago

Astronomers at the University of British Columbia have collaborated with international researchers to calculate the precise mass of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, dispelling the notion that the two galaxies have similar ...

Mysterious molecules in space

13 hours ago

Over the vast, empty reaches of interstellar space, countless small molecules tumble quietly though the cold vacuum. Forged in the fusion furnaces of ancient stars and ejected into space when those stars ...

Comet Jacques makes a 'questionable' appearance

Jul 28, 2014

What an awesome photo! Italian amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri nailed it earlier today using a remote telescope in New Mexico and wide-field 4-inch (106 mm) refractor. Currently the brightest comet in ...

Image: Our flocculent neighbour, the spiral galaxy M33

Jul 28, 2014

The spiral galaxy M33, also known as the Triangulum Galaxy, is one of our closest cosmic neighbours, just three million light-years away. Home to some forty billion stars, it is the third largest in the ...

Image: Chandra's view of the Tycho Supernova remnant

Jul 25, 2014

More than four centuries after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first observed the supernova that bears his name, the supernova remnant it created is now a bright source of X-rays. The supersonic expansion of ...

User comments : 0