May 26, 2020

07.06.10: Mega-Scope Site Selected.

The dawn of the mega-scopes is almost upon us… earlier last month, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) consortium announced a site selection for their whopping 42 meter monster; the E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope) which will be perched atop Cerro Armazones in central Chile. The 10,020 foot high summit beat out four other possible sites in Chile and the Canary Islands during the long site evaluation process due to its outstanding clarity and seeing. First light is projected to be 2018, and the E-ELT will be composed of a 1,000 hexagonal mirror segments bringing light to focus on a Nasmyth instrument platform.  While designers had to “settle” from designs that included scopes as large as the proposed 100-meter Overwhelmingly Large telescope (!) The E-ELT will still be four times as large as most single aperture scopes in use today. To give you an idea of its scale, the secondary mirror will be larger than the legendary Hale Telescope’s 200-inch primary! Such an engineering project will also pose crucial challenges to designers, as well as kick the “aperture envy” up among astronomers a notch…and like most new instruments, E-ELT will be able to probe the near-infrared as well as the optical. With a billion Euro sticker price, the E-ELT is sure to be one of the engineering feats of our time!