Extremely Large Telescope – A Quick Overview

Artist’s illustration of completed telescope

The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), nestled in Chile’s Atacama Desert, is being built to expand our understanding of the universe. The ELT is an initiative of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organization.

The ELT project was announced in December 2014. The chosen location is Cerro Armazones, a solitary mountain peak in the Atacama Desert. The site was strategically chosen for its exceptionally clear atmospheric conditions.

When completed ELT will boast an awe-inspiring primary mirror, spanning 39 meters in diameter and formed from almost 800 individual segments. Each segment, though only a few centimeters thick, is meticulously engineered to a width of 1.4 meters. Complementing this intricate design, the ELT will possess an adaptive optics system to adjust each mirror segment in real-time, overcoming the blurring effects of atmospheric turbulence.

The telescope will also play host to an array of sophisticated instruments, including advanced cameras and spectrographs that are capable of sensing a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

ELT is expected to probe exoplanets in detail, potentially identifying signatures of life in their atmospheres. It will also serve as a powerful tool to advance scientific understanding of dark matter and dark energy. The telescope could also capture light from the earliest galaxies and provide new insights into the origins of the universe.

ELT is currently under construction and is expected to be operational in 2028.

2022 picture of the construction site
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