Extremely Large Telescope moves one step closer

August 14, 2006

Brussels, 11 Aug 2006

The construction of a European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) has moved a step closer with the creation of a project office to drive the project..

The ELT will have a primary mirror of between 30 and 62 metres in diameter, and will cost around €750 million to build. Construction could start as early as 2010, and scientists could begin to use it from about six years into construction. Although the mirror will not be finished at this point, some segments of it will be.

It will be significantly larger than the current 8.2 metre Very Large Telescope (VLT), owned by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and based in Chile.

The ELT will also be larger than a planned US telescope, expected to measure 30 metres in diameter.

'We believe that the European Extremely Large Telescope is essential if we are to ensure the continued competitiveness of the astronomical community in ESO's member states. This goal can be achieved in a timely manner through ESO and the community working closely together, according to ESO's Director General, Catherine Cesarsky.

Playing a principal role in investigating the options for the telescope has been the ELT Design Study, funded under the Infrastructures section of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). The project involves 30 partners from Europe, Israel and Australia, and is coordinated by ESO. The project has received €8.4 million from the European Commission - around one-third of the study's costs, the rest provided by the other institutions involved.

The study has been crucial in setting out a 'science case' for the project. The science case covers a huge range of topics, from our own solar system to the furthest observable objects at the edge of the visible Universe. For example, the ELT could enable astronomers to observe planets in extra-solar systems, stellar populations across the Universe, the building of galaxies, and the first objects and re-ionisation structure of the Universe.

An initial design will be presented to the ESO Council at the end of 2006..

Further information

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2006
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