On Friday the European Southern Observatory broke ground in Chile on the construction of the European Extemely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which when finished in 2024 will be the largest ground-based telescope in the world.
The mirror will be 39 meters across.
Meanwhile, construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope remains stalled. It was originally supposed to be operating before E-ELT, but that is becoming increasingly doubtful. Its builders can’t get Hawaii to approve a building permit, and they haven’t yet been willing to admit that they will never get permission to build there.
The European Southern Observatory today signed the contract to begin building the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
The contract covers the design, manufacture, transport, construction, on-site assembly and verification of the dome and telescope structure. With an approximate value of 400 million euros, it is the largest contract ever awarded by ESO and the largest contract ever in ground-based astronomy. The E-ELT dome and telescope structure will take telescope engineering into new territory. The contract includes not only the enormous 85-metre-diameter rotating dome, with a total mass of around 5000 tonnes, but also the telescope mounting and tube structure, with a total moving mass of more than 3000 tonnes. Both of these structures are by far the largest ever built for an optical/infrared telescope and dwarf all existing ones. The dome is almost 80 metres high and its footprint is comparable in area to a football pitch.
The E-ELT is being built on Cerro Armazones, a 3000-metre peak about 20 kilometres from ESO’s Paranal Observatory. The access road and leveling of the summit have already been completed and work on the dome is expected to start on site in 2017.
E-ELT will have a main mirror 39 meters in width, about 9 meters bigger than the stalled TMT project.
Europe has approved the construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which when completed will be the largest ground-based telescope.
The E-ELT will have a mirror 39 meters across, almost four times bigger than the world’s largest telescope today.
A word to the wise: This very month Sky & Telescope’s cover article, written by yours truly, describes the many difficulties the world’s present generation of giant telescopes have faced. Four out of five have not produced the science promised. Two of the four were dogged by so many technical problems that they required complete reconstruction. The builders of E-ELT will face even greater engineering challenges. Do not be surprised if this telescope does not get completed by 2025 as promised, and even if it does, do not be surprised if it takes another half decade or more before the engineers work out all the kinks.
Groundbreaking — the literally blasting off of a mountaintop — took place today in Chile at the eventual site of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
Once completed in 2024 this telescope will have a segmented mirror with a total diameter of 39 meters or 128 feet, the largest ever built.
Want to watch some astronomers blow up the top of a mountain? You can!
Seriously, construction crews will in June begin blasting to prepare this mountain top in Chile for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), a gigantic optical telescope that will have a primary mirror 39 meters or 128 feet across and is scheduled for completion sometime in the next decade. To mark the event they will be providing a live stream for everyone worldwide to watch.
Construction of the world’s largest ground-based telescope has been approved by the European Southern Observatory.
No one should get too excited about this announcement. They still need to raise 90% of their funds to build it, and to do so they have to get agreements from the four member countries of the European Southern Observatory. It will be years, probably at least a decade, before this 40-meter truly gigantic telescope sees the light.