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The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) with a primary mirror measuring an astounding 39 metres across, will collect 25 times more light than one 8.2-metre telescope at ESO’s Very Large Telescope observatory in Chile.

The E-ELT will tackle the biggest scientific challenges of our time, and aim for a number of notable firsts, including tracking down Earth-like planets around other stars in the “habitable zones” where life could exist. It will be the world's biggest eye on the sky when it becomes operational.

Artist’s impression.
credit ESO Astronomy/L. CalçadaArtist’s impression.
Architectural concept drawing.
credit Swinburne Astronomy Productions/European Southern Observatory (ESO)Architectural concept drawing.
The E-ELT here seen in a scale comparison with an Airbus A340 airplane.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)The E-ELT here seen in a scale comparison with an Airbus A340 airplane.
A full-sized mock-up of the E-ELT primary mirror built by participants at ESO's Open House Day 2011.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)A full-sized mock-up of the E-ELT primary mirror built by participants at ESO's Open House Day 2011.
June 2009 version of the design of the 40-metre-class European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in its enclosure, currently being planned by ESO (artist’s impression). The E-ELT will be mounted on a central concrete pier. It will be shielded from the wind by a dome enclosure. This dome will have an approximate height of 80m and a footprint of about 100m diameter. The ramp will be used to access the enclosure.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)June 2009 version of the design of the 40-metre-class European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in its enclosure, currently being planned by ESO (artist’s impression). The E-ELT will be mounted on a central concrete pier. It will be shielded from the wind by a dome enclosure. This dome will have an approximate height of 80m and a footprint of about 100m diameter. The ramp will be used to access the enclosure.
On 13 October 2011, the Republic of Chile and ESO signed an agreement regarding land for the European Extremely Large Telescope, including the donation of an area of 189 km2 around Cerro Armazones for the installation of the E-ELT as well as a concession for 50 years relating to the surrounding area, representing an additional 362 km2 , which will protect the E-ELT from light pollution and mining operations.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)/L. CalçadaOn 13 October 2011, the Republic of Chile and ESO signed an agreement regarding land for the European Extremely Large Telescope, including the donation of an area of 189 km2 around Cerro Armazones for the installation of the E-ELT as well as a concession for 50 years relating to the surrounding area, representing an additional 362 km2 , which will protect the E-ELT from light pollution and mining operations.
Various aspects need to be considered in the site selection process. Parameters taken into account are not restricted to ‘sky quality’, but include more general scientific aspects, as well as parameters essential for construction and operations (e.g. accessibility, water and power supply, political stability etc.).
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)Various aspects need to be considered in the site selection process. Parameters taken into account are not restricted to ‘sky quality’, but include more general scientific aspects, as well as parameters essential for construction and operations (e.g. accessibility, water and power supply, political stability etc.).
The telescope design itself is revolutionary and is based on a novel five-mirror scheme that results in exceptional image quality. The primary mirror consists of almost 800 segments, each 1.4 metres wide, but only 50 mm thick.  The optical design calls for an immense secondary mirror 4.2 metres in diameter, bigger than the primary mirrors of any of ESO's telescopes at La Silla.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)The telescope design itself is revolutionary and is based on a novel five-mirror scheme that results in exceptional image quality. The primary mirror consists of almost 800 segments, each 1.4 metres wide, but only 50 mm thick. The optical design calls for an immense secondary mirror 4.2 metres in diameter, bigger than the primary mirrors of any of ESO's telescopes at La Silla.
Lasers are used to create artificial stars high in the atmosphere as part of the telescope’s sophisticated adaptive optics system to remove much of the blurring effect of the Earth’s atmosphere. Adaptive mirrors are also incorporated into the optics of the telescope to compensate for the fuzziness in the stellar images. One of these mirrors is supported by more than 6000 actuators that can distort its shape a thousand times per second.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)/L. Calçada/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)Lasers are used to create artificial stars high in the atmosphere as part of the telescope’s sophisticated adaptive optics system to remove much of the blurring effect of the Earth’s atmosphere. Adaptive mirrors are also incorporated into the optics of the telescope to compensate for the fuzziness in the stellar images. One of these mirrors is supported by more than 6000 actuators that can distort its shape a thousand times per second.
Four segments of the giant primary mirror of the E-ELT undergoing testing together for the first time.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)/H.-H. HeyerFour segments of the giant primary mirror of the E-ELT undergoing testing together for the first time.
Inside the E-ELT.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)Inside the E-ELT.
Close-up view of the novel 5-mirror approach of the 40-metre-class European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in its enclosure, currently being planned by ESO (artist’s impression).
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)Close-up view of the novel 5-mirror approach of the 40-metre-class European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in its enclosure, currently being planned by ESO (artist’s impression).
Representatives of United Kingdom (UK) confirmed on 3 March 2013 that their country will participate in the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) programme.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)/L. CalçadaRepresentatives of United Kingdom (UK) confirmed on 3 March 2013 that their country will participate in the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) programme.
Ongoing construction work.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)Ongoing construction work.
During night-time observations the four beams shooting skywards are lasers that create artificial stars high in the Earth’s atmosphere.
credit European Southern Observatory (ESO)/L. CalçadaDuring night-time observations the four beams shooting skywards are lasers that create artificial stars high in the Earth’s atmosphere.

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22.09.2014by Robert Sugar

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