The plan to construct European Southern Observatory’s “Extremely Large Telescope” (ELT) is finally on track nearly two years after the project was initially approved. Once built, the ELT will allow scientists to study the universe by as early as 2024.
With additional funding coming from Poland, the project is now 90 percent funded – enough for the European South Observatory council to begin with the first phase of ELT’s development. “Phase one” will entail building the dome, as well as the structure itself. The telescope, measuring 74 meters high, and 86 diameters wide, will take 10 years and nearly €1 billion ($1.24 billion) to complete. Once constructed, it will sit atop Chile’s Cerro Armazones mountain in the Atacama Desert – a place considered by many to have a good view at the solar system.
If successful, the Extremely Large Telescope will become the largest telescope in the world – boasting a 39-meter aperture, and capable of swallowing 12 times more light than the biggest telescope currently in existence. According to the European Southern Observatory, the astronomy organization supported by over 15 countries, Extremely Large Telescopes are currently one of the biggest priorities in ground-based astronomy – not only in Europe, but worldwide. By utilizing such technology, scientists will be able peer deeper and further into distant galaxies than ever before, and with much more clarity. The ultimate goal is to obtain new and detailed astrophysical knowledge about the universe – including imagery of exoplanets, super-massive black holes and stars.
Although the ELT will not be 100 percent complete after the first phase of construction, scientists will still be able to use it for observation. The missing parts, consisting of a main mirror and an optics system, will be added in the future, during the second phase of construction. By then, European Southern Observatory expects to receive more funding, once Brazil joins the project.
Until then, construction is already underway. Groundwork for the ELT has begun in the Atacama Desert. With the use of the telescope, scientists and researchers are hoping to potentially locate other astronomical bodies that can eventually function as sites for life and growth.