Birds eye view of the elaborate 3-dimensional model of the European Extremely Large Telescope.
December 13, 2006 The current generation of 4 to 10-m telescopes has an incredible wealth of knowledge about our Universe, with the discovery of hundreds of extra-solar systems and the study of far away galaxies, whose light comes almost from the very first epoch in the Universe when stars and galaxies started to form. Even more breathtaking is the recent evidence that nearly all the content of our Universe is made of dark matter, whose nature is as yet unknown, and dark energy, the very existence of which is presently not understood. These discoveries pose many new questions that future generations of Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs) could answer. The combination of unprecedented acuity and light gathering power will provide unique images of objects at all scales, from those in our own solar system and exoplanetary systems to the very first points of light in our Universe. Moreover, detailed spectral analysis will reveal invaluable information on their nature, motions and characteristics. The first ELT moved a step closer this week when ESO's governing body decided to proceed with a EUR 57 million study for a European Extremely Large Telescope. If all goes to plan, the construction of a 40m diameter optical/infrared telescope will start in three years time, and when finished will revolutionise ground-based astronomy. The chosen design is based on a revolutionary concept specially developed for a telescope of this size.
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