Astronomers from across Europe today (July 7th) took a step closer to making their plans for a giant telescope a reality when they unveiled the scientific case for an Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) – a monster telescope with a light capturing mirror of between 50 and 100 metres, dwarfing all previous optical telescope facilities. The announcement was made at a meeting in Dwingeloo, the Netherlands and initiates the design phase of the project. Astronomers plan to use the ELT to search for planets like the Earth in other star systems and to find out when the first stars in the Universe began to shine.
The first step when selecting the specifications and design options for a new telescope is for astronomers to establish the science that could be achieved with the facility. The science case launched today will be used in a Design Study funded by the European Union’s Framework 6 Programme and a Europe-wide consortium of partners, including industry, aimed at evaluating critical technologies needed to build a giant telescope, and led by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The UK part of this €30M programme is led by the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) and partly funded by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC).
Roberto Gilmozzi, ESO’s coordinator of the ELT Design Study said, "The ELT Design Study initiative, a 31 MEuro activity partially funded by the FP6, shows the willingness of Europe to pursue a common path towards the eventual construction of an ELT. It is a design independent study of enabling technologies that brings together European institutes and industry to define a palette of ELT "building blocks" that indicate the way in which the telescope design should evolve to take advantage of the directions industry believes are most appropriate and cost effective.”
Julia Maddock | alfa
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