- Written by Josh
The go ahead has been given to start construction of the world's largest optical telescope.
The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) was approved by the European Southern Observatory council late on 12 June 2012.
This approval means that the project can move forward and it is intended that the telescope will be up and running within the decade.
The E-ELT will truly be a giant when built, having a mirror that is wider than 4 London buses. Building the biggest optical telescope to date won't be without challenges - it will require a huge investment of funds, around £800 million, along with great skill.
Trying to make a single 40m flawless mirror is practically impossible, so instead the mirror will be built in sections. It will take over 800 hexagonal sections to build just the main mirror of the telescope.
It is intended that the E-ELT will be one of the premier astronomical resources of the 21st century, and this is down to the size of its mirror. The bigger the mirror, the more information can be gathered allowing us to look further into to universe.
The plan is to use the E-ELT to look for Earth sized planets around other stars, investigate the history of other galaxies, look for traces of the first stars and search for the ever elusive dark matter. These planned uses are coupled with a preparation to investigate new, unexpected areas the E-ELT will no doubt reveal.
The E-ELT is still a long way away, with its first glance into the heavens expected to take place in the early 2020's, but the approval of this project shows a keen desire to keep looking. Humanity has peered into the sky for thousands of years and we still have a lot that we don't understand.
Facilities such as the E-ELT will allow us to pursue our curiosity and seek new answers to questions about the Universe.