The ELT or the Extremely Large Telescope is one step closer to reality as construction work just commenced on what will soon become the world’s biggest yet telescope. ESO or the European Southern Observatory, its developer, expects it to be ready and functional by 2024.
The ELT will be housed by an 85-meter rotating dome and will have a primary mirror of around 128 feet. This, in itself, will be made up of 798 smaller mirrors, each shaped like a hexagon, some 1.4 meters wide and 5 centimeters thick. Its total light collected area is estimated to reach 978 square meters.
The largest existing telescopes have a primary mirror measuring around 10 meters, in comparison. In total, the housing dome will weigh about 5,000 tons, construction and equipment included. Some 3,000 tons of this will be a movable mass, which will include both the telescope’s mounting and its tube structure.
The ELT: The “Biggest Eye Ever” Cast Towards the Sky
Construction work on the ELT began on Friday, last week. It will be built near the ESO Paranal Observatory, in northern Chile. The telescope will be both infrared and optical and will be the “biggest eye cast yet” towards the eye. This is according to a statement released on Friday by the ESO.
“The ELT will produce discoveries that we simply cannot imagine today, and it will surely inspire numerous people around the world […],” stated Tim de Zeeuw, the ESO director general.
This telescope will include four major instruments, the HARMONI, MAORY, METIS, and MICADO. These will help the ELT better carry out its goals, including the study of dark energy and matter. Also, astronomers will look to continue their probing of Earth-like exoplanets for signs of life.
ELT’s developers are hoping that this new telescope will help “revolutionize our perception of the Universe”. The planning and consultation phases for this new device took 12 years.
Image Source: Wikimedia