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Winner named in EU competition on architecture and design of building for world’s largest telescope

11.10.2005


Within the framework of the EU’s Sixth Framework Program, preliminary studies are underway to build a land-based telescope that will be by far the largest ever, thus offering entirely new potential for detailed observations. For one thing, researchers hope to be able to see so far into space, and thereby so far back in time, that they will be able to understand the creation of the universe and discover whether it is possible that there is life on other planets.



Recently a winner was picked in the competition for innovative design and architecture for the building that will house the telescope. A proposal submitted by Lund University in Sweden took first place honors in competition with seven other pan-European suggestions. A Spanish team’s design came in second.

“This is highly gratifying. Since this project is so unique, it requires entirely new solutions in terms of construction, which has made our work both stimulating and challenging,” explains Göran Sandberg, professor of structural mechanics at Lund Institute of Technology and project director for the Lund team’s construction proposal.


The telescope and its roughly 200-meter high building are characterized by advanced engineering solutions in adaptive optics, control technology, and computer algorithms, for example. The primary mirror of the planned telescope will be at least 50 meters in diameter. The corresponding measure of today’s largest land-based telescope, the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, is less than ten meters. The size of the mirror is crucial to the sharpness and resolution of the image.

“With the new telescope, the collection of light and focus will be ten thousand times better than today, which opens entirely new potential for studying galaxies, for instance,” explains Arne Ardeberg, who for several years, together with Torben Andersen at the Department of Astronomy, has been promoting the idea of constructing a telescope of the sort that the EU is now planning to build. They have played a major role in shaping the Lund team’s overall plan, which sets up the guidelines together with another pan-European proposal, Owl.

Arne Ardeberg explains that land-based telescopes have a great advantage over space-based telescopes, which, owing to high costs, have to be made considerably smaller and are more difficult to maintain. On the other hand, space telescopes can capture light waves that do not penetrate the atmosphere of the earth, so the two types complement each other, as he sees it.

In other words, Lund University is already a key player in the EU telescope project, and this role has now been confirmed once again. The telescope is planned to be located in northern Chile or in the Canary Islands and is estimated to be ready for use in a little more than ten years.

Kristina Lindgärde | alfa
Further information:
http://www.astro.lu.se/euro50
http://www.vr.se

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