European astronomers ready to take the lead in space research
European astronomers are one step closer to revolutionising
astronomy and space research following the recent decision
to move ahead with the European Extremely Large Telescope
(E-ELT). The European Southern Observatory (ESO), a European
intergovernmental organisation for astronomical research,
recently approved a three-year, €57 million study that
will lay the groundwork for the world’s largest optical/infrared
The E-ELT is designed to outperform the largest current optical telescopes a hundred-fold, and will answer some of the biggest questions about the Universe in which we live.
|The E-ELT will complement the activities of ESO telescopes in Chile.|
“The E-ELT is critical to allow the next big advance in
understanding our mysterious Universe. We will search for planets
similar to the Earth around other stars, discover the nature
of matter by mapping the distribution and properties of the
dark matter, which is the matter of which Nature is made, not
the rather unimportant amount of stuff of which we are made,
and investigate the future of the Universe - is time infinite?
- by examining the Dark energy which seems to control the fate
of space-time,” says Prof. Gerry Gilmore of the University
Current blueprints call for 42m diameter segmented mirror telescope
housed in an 80m diameter rotating dome. The plans detail a
large internal mirror able to distort its own shape a thousand
times per second.
“The telescope design incorporates the crucial image sharpening
technology in an innovative way that will give the 42 meters
the full theoretical capability an instrument of that size can
achieve. It will provide an unprecedented clear view of the
distant universe enabling us to probe the origins of planets,
stars and galaxies,” says Professor Roger Davies, chairman
of ESO’s ELT Standing Review Committee.
The progression and development of the E-ELT is due in large part to the cooperation and dedication of European research institutes and high tech industry players. Experts have been working feverishly throughout the past year in hopes of completing the final design. A major step in developing the critical technologies of the telescope has been made possible by the so-called ELT Design Study, principally funded by ESO and the European Commission.
Prof Gilmore chaired the design study.
“Constructing an E-ELT is extremely challenging - as you
scale up a telescope the technical difficulties become much
more significant. Scientists and industry will both have crucial
parts to play in ensuring that the E-ELT is viable,” says
The final location of the E-ELT is yet to be determined as analyses
of candidate sites are on-going. A final selection is expected
The European Extremely Large Telescope project will maintain
and reinforce Europe’s position at the forefront of astrophysical
research, gained in large part at the turn of the Century through
the ESO Very Large Telescope facility.