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Super telescope to explore the unknown

This artist’s rendering shows the Extremely Large Telescope in operation on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile. The telescope is shown using lasers to create artificial stars high in the atmosphere. The first stone ceremony for the telescope was attended by the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, on 26 May 2017.


Work has begun in Chile on building the world’s first super telescope.

The suitably named Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) is the brainchild of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Due for completion in 2024, it will be the biggest infrared and optical telescope every constructed.

Tim DE Zeeuw, Director General of ESO, said: “The ELT will produce discoveries that we simply cannot imagine today, and it will surely inspire numerous people around the world to think about science, technology and our place in the Universe. This will bring great benefit to the ESO member states, to Chile, and to the rest of the world.”

Located on top of the Cerro Armazones mountain, the ELT is an international collaboration project backed by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and scientists at Oxford University. The Oxford team designed the spectrograph -‘HARMONI’ – which will be able to take thousands of images, allowing researchers to get a picture of what is going on in distant galaxies never seen before.

Professor Niranjan Thatte, Principal Investigator for ‘HARMONI’, added: “For me, the ELT represents a big leap forward in capability, and that means that we will use it to find many interesting things about the Universe that we have no knowledge of today.

“It is the element of ‘exploring the unknown’ that most excites me about the ELT. It will be an engineering feat, and its sheer size and light grasp will dwarf all other telescopes that we have built to date.”

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