- £872million project will be built on Chilean mountaintop by 2022
By Eddie Wrenn
PUBLISHED: 03:52 EST, 12 June 2012 | UPDATED: 08:12 EST, 12 June 2012
A coalition of 15 European countries has announced plans to build the biggest telescope in the world.
The mirror inside the telescope will measure 39metres across – four times wider than today’s biggest telescope – and it will be so powerful that astronomers will even be able to observe dark, rocky planets far beyond our solar system.
The European Southern Observatory project is supported by 15 members of the European Union and has the catchy name ‘European Extremely Large Telescope’… even if it will be built in Chile, to avoid light pollution.
The twin infrared/optical telescope will sit on top of a 3,060metre mountaintop, giving unparralled views of the sky above, and should hopefully come online in 2022.
Astronomers hope the observatory will help provide insights into the formation of galleries and the nature of black holes
They also hope to shed light on two of the biggest mysteries of our universe – the formation of ‘dark matter’, which cannot be directly observed but is hypothesised to make up most of the mass of the universe, and ‘dark energy’, which appears to driving the universe to expand at an accelerating rate.
ESO agreed to the optical/infrared telescope in Garching, Germany, (E-ELT) Programme, pending confirmation of final referendums.
All of ESO’s member states have already expressed very strong support for the E-ELT project.
At the council meeting, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland voted in favour of the start of the E-ELT programme.
Four further countries voted in favour ad referendum: Belgium, Finland, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
The project has an estimated cost of 1083million euro, or £872m.
ESO director general, Tim de Zeeuw said: ‘This is an excellent outcome and a great day for ESO.
‘We can now move forward on schedule with this giant project.’
2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ESO. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The team operate three observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor.
At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes.