A new telescope is officially in the making. Dubbed as world’s largest telescope, it will let us see the universe like never before. Officially, it is expected to be built by 2024, which will start the countdown by 10 more years.
The European Extremely Large Telescope abbreviated as E-ELT will feature a 128-feet wide light collecting surface will be constructed atop Cerro Armazones in Chile’s Atacama Desert (one of the best place for astronomical observations). It will be the largest visible-light/near-infrared telescope in the world, with the ability to spot rocky planets orbiting stars that are light years away.
The construction was first approved in 2012, but on a condition that contracts more than 2 million euros could be awarded only after 90 percent of total funding required to build the telescope had been secure.
The budget back in 2012 was 1.34 billion, according to prices back then. According to current prices, the budget comes to 1.083 billion.
“The decision taken by Council [ESO’s chief governing body] means that the telescope can now be built, and that major industrial construction work for the E-ELT is now funded and can proceed according to plan,” Tim de Zeeuw, ESO’s director general, said in a statement. “There is already a lot of progress in Chile on the summit of Armazones, and the next few years will be very exciting.”
E-ELT was split in two phases of development. The 90 percent of the total cost was used in “Phase 1”, which involved in getting the telescope up and running. The rest 10 percent of the cost was used in “Phase 2”, which involved development of non-essential materials.
According to ESO, the current construction approval applies to the construction of Phase 1 only. The Phase 2 components will be approved as the funding becomes available.
The current VLT – Very large telescope consists of four 8-meter mirrors, which work in unison to make it the world’s largest visible light telescope. E-ELT will have main mirror 39 meter in diameter, having total collecting area of 978 square meters, which is 10,500 square feet, or about the size of two basketball courts.
E-ELT will be able to peer deep into space and obtain high-resolution imagery of planetary formation. It will also detect water and other organic molecules around those distant planets and proto-planets.
E-ELT is not the large telescope that is in build right now. The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii is very similar to the E-ELT. However, it results in smaller total light collecting area – 655 square meters.