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Biggest Eye on the Sky

By David Reneke

News from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

David Reneke is an astronomy lecturer and teacher, a feature writer for major Australian newspapers and magazines, and a science correspondent for ABC and commercial radio. Subscribe to David’s free Astro-Space newsletter at www.davidreneke.com

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Galileo would be over the Moon if he could see how his rudimentary invention has evolved! The world’s largest optical/infrared telescope has been given the initial go-ahead to be built. Called the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), this long-proposed new ground based telescope will have a 40-metre main mirror and observe the universe in visible and infrared light.

We’ll be imaging exoplanets more closely than ever imagined, perhaps finding Earth-sized and even Earth-like worlds, and we’ll study the first galaxies that formed just after the Big Bang.

At a meeting in France recently, the European Southern Observatory Council approved the E-ELT program, with six of ten countries giving firm approval and four giving a preliminary OK pending an official green light from their governments.

“This is an excellent outcome and a great day for ESO. We can now move forward on schedule with this giant project,” said ESO Director General, Tim de Zeeuw. With that approval, officials are hopeful the E-ELT could start operations by the early 2020s.

The new super-large “big eye” on the sky will be built at Cerro Armazones in northern Chile, close to ESO’s Paranal Observatory, at an estimated cost of US$1.35 billion.

Astronomers have had this instrument on their priority list for a long time. The E-ELT will gather 100 million times more light...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.