Astronomers ink deal to build record telescope

first_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Email Astronomers today signed an unprecedented contract to build the world’s largest ground-based optical and infrared telescope. In a ceremony at the headquarters of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Garching, Germany, ESO Director General Tim de Zeeuw inked the record deal—worth €400 million—with three Italian engineering firms. They will build the structure that will hold the huge 39-meter mirror of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), as well as the domed building that will enclose it. (Watch a video about the new telescope design.)The agreement “gives ESO the opportunity to be the first in the era of giant telescopes,” De Zeeuw told an online press conference. The light-collecting area of the E-ELT is greater than that of all ground-based optical research telescopes currently in operation, and it will produce images 15 times as sharp as the Hubble Space Telescope. Roberto Tamai, E-ELT program manager, said the telescope will provide “a transformational step in our understanding of the universe.”Ground-based astronomy is in the throes of a giant leap forward from today’s roughly 10-meter-wide scopes to much bigger instruments. In addition to E-ELT, two other behemoths are under construction: the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at Mauna Kea in Hawaii (although the TMT is currently stalled because of local opposition).center_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Although ESO has struggled to fully fund the €1.1 billion E-ELT project from its 15 member countries, it has maintained momentum by delaying some components until a later phase II. Tamai says that 90% of the funds for phase I (covering the full telescope and most other components) are in ESO’s bank accounts, but phase II will have to wait. “Construction will be a magnet for new members,” he says. ESO is hoping that Brazil and Russia may come on board.Gianpietro Marchiori, president of the EIE group which, along with the firms Astaldi and Cimola, forms the ACe consortium that will assemble the scope, described the enormous structure to be built on Cerro Armazones in Chile. The dome will be 80 meters high, weigh 5000 tons, and have a footprint the size of a soccer pitch. The mass of the moving part of the telescope—holding the mirror—will be 3000 tons. The structure will contain 70 kilometers of cabling and 30 million bolts, and will take a total of 4.8 million person-hours to design and build. To walk from the entrance to the roof of the dome will take 30 minutes, Marchiori says.last_img read more

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