Europe’s economy is in a bit of a mess at the moment; however this does not seem to be a problem for the astronomy world. Fifteen European countries have come together, with more than 100 astronomers; their goal is to build a massive telescope.
This telescope, named the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be in a class of its own, dwarfing all other telescopes currently in existence. The main mirror will measure 40 meters across.
This project started in 2005 and construction is set to start within the next few years. The cost is expected to be close to a billion euros.
The current class of 8-10 meter telescopes provide us with pictures of planets orbiting around other stars. Our understanding of astronomy is growing at an extremely fast pace. This new class of telescope will allow astronomers to see even deeper into the universe, and answer many more questions.
The 40 foot diameter is the minimum needed, in order to investigate some of the most interesting science cases. The E-ELT will be able to image rocky exoplanets and directly measure the acceleration of the expansion of the universe.
The E-ELT Site Selection Advisory Committee has taken great care in deciding on a site for the huge telescope. They main contenders were Argentina, Chile, Morocco, and Spain. They decided that the Cerro Armazones Mountain, Chile would be the perfect location, at an altitude of 3060 meters.