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ESO Starts Construction of World's First Super Telescope Called 'Extremely Large Telescope' and Its Spectograph 'HARMONI'

May 29, 2017 11:02 AM EDT
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The European Southern Observatory (ESO) conducted an inauguration ceremony marking the first stone for the world's first super telescope, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). President of the Republic of Chile, Michelle Bachelet Jeriag, graced the event.

The ceremony was held at ESO's Paranal Observatory in northen Chile. It's close to where the future first and giant super telescope will be built. The event signaled the start of the construction of the dome and main structure of the ELT. Experts believe that this will also mark the new era of astronomy.

"With the symbolic start of this construction work, we are building more than a telescope here: it is one of the greatest expressions of scientific and technological capabilities and of the extraordinary potential of international cooperation," the President of the Republic of Chile, Michelle Bachelet said in her speech.

One of the highlight of the ceremony is the time capsule. The contents of the sealed time capsule includes poster photographs of current ESO staff and a book discussing future goals of the telescope.

The ELT will have a main mirror that's 39 meters in diameter. The giant super telescope is also designed to be adaptive in order to survive atmospheric turbulence, another feat when it comes to telescope engineering.

Aside from the European Space Observatory, Oxford University scientists play a vital role in the contruction of the world's first super telescope. The scientists are responsible for creating the spectrograph of the telescope called "HARMONI."

HARMONI is capable of taking 4000 images simultaneously with each of them with slightly different color. It has a near-infrared instrument that will improve the telescope's ability to provide "extremely" sharp images. With that, the HARMONI spectrograph will help scientists form a more detailed picture of both the formation and evolution of objects in the universe.

"For me, the ELT represents a big leap forward in capability, and that means that we will use it to find many interesting things about the Universe that we have no knowledge of today," Niranjan Thatte, Principal Investigator for 'HARMONI' and Professor of Astrophysics at Oxford's Department of Physics, said in a statement. "It is the element of 'exploring the unknown' that most excites me about the ELT. It will be an engineering feat, and its sheer size and light grasp will dwarf all other telescopes that we have built to date."

According to ESO, the opening of the world's first giant super telescope will pave the way for discoveries that weren't even possible before. The telescope with its HARMONI spectrograph is expected be complete in 2024.

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