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Tuesday, 30 May 2017 13:54

World's first 'super telescope' to aid astronomers in search for alien life

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The Extremely Large Telescope is five times larger than the top observing instruments in use today

Construction has begun on the world's first "super telescope", which could prove to be a vital tool in the search for alien life.

The telescope, appropriately named Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), will be the world's largest optical telescope - some five times larger than the top observing instruments in use today.

Its main mirror alone will measure 39 metres across, and it will be housed in an enormous rotating dome 85 metres in diameter - comparable in area to a football pitch.

This artist's rendering shows a night view of 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. (Photo: ESO/L. Calada)

Located on a 3,000 metre-high mountain in the middle of the Atacama desert in Chile, it is due to begin operating in 2024.

Among other capabilities, it will probe Earth-like exoplanets for signs of life, study the nature of dark energy and dark matter, and observe the Universe's early stages to explore our origins.

It will also raise new questions we cannot conceive of today, as well as improving life here on Earth through new technology and engineering breakthroughs, scientists claim.

The President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, arrives at the first stone ceremony for the ELT (Photo: ESO/Juan Pablo Astorga)

    A ceremony to mark the beginning of the construction process was held at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. The ceremony was attended by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

    "Wee are building more than a telescope here: it is one of the greatest expressions of scientific and technological capabilities and of the extraordinary potential of international cooperation," said Bachelet.

    As well as the laying of the "first stone", the ceremony included the sealing of a time capsule, containing photographs of scientists and engineers who have worked on the project, and a copy of a book describing the future scientific goals of the telescope.

    This infographic provides a basic breakdown of the ELT's structure, focusing particularly on the first-generation of instruments. (Photo: ESO)

    The ELT is being funded by the European Southern Observatory, an organisation consisting of European and southern hemisphere nations.

    The dry atmosphere of the Atacama provides as near perfect observing conditions as it is possible to find on Earth, with some 70% of the world's astronomical infrastructure slated to be located in the region by the 2020s.

    Construction costs were not available but the ESO has said previously that the ELT would cost around €1 billion (£871 million) at 2012 prices.

    The ELT is due to begin operating in 2024 (Photo: ESO/L. Calada)

      "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," said Tim de Zeeuw, director general of ESO.

      "This will bring great benefit to the ESO Member States, to Chile, and to the rest of the world."

      Source: This article was mirror.co.uk By JORGE VEGASOPHIE CURTIS

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