An artist's illustration depicts the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in its enclosure. It eventually will be the world’s largest "eye on the sky." (Click Image to Download)
The world's largest telescope has gotten its official construction go-ahead, keeping the enormous instrument on track to start observing the heavens in 2024.
The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which will feature a light-collecting surface 128 feet (39 meters) wide, has been greenlit for construction atop Cerro Armazones in Chile's Atacama Desert, officials with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced Thursday (Dec. 4).
The current construction approval applies only to Phase 1; contracts for this work will be awarded in late 2015. The Phase 2 components will be approved as more funding becomes available, ESO officials said.
"The funds that are now committed will allow the construction of a fully working E-ELT that will be the most powerful of all the extremely large telescope projects currently planned, with superior light-collecting area and instrumentation," de Zeeuw said. "It will allow the initial characterization of Earth-mass exoplanets, the study of the resolved stellar populations in nearby galaxies as well as ultra-sensitive observations of the deep universe."
the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) — which, not surprisingly, will boast a light-collecting surface 30 m, or 98 feet, wide — is slated to start observing from Hawaii's Mauna Kea in 2022. Like E-ELT, TMT's primary mirror will be composed of hundreds of relatively small segments.
All three megascopes should help researchers tackle some of the biggest questions in astronomy, including the nature of the mysterious dark matter and dark energy that make up most of the universe.
Source : Discovery.com