Laid the Foundation for the biggest optical telescope in the world

At the moment, in several places of the world is building a revolutionary ground-based telescopes that promises to open the door to a new era of astronomical research. The mountain Mauna Kea, Hawaii, Australia, South Africa, North-Western part of China, and the Atacama desert in Chile – in these regions with a very dry climate will be built several plants that will not only allow you to look even further into the vast expanses of space, but also to consider that there is a higher level of detail.

One of these installations will be Extremely large telescope (ELT) the European southern Observatory – the largest optical telescope of a new generation, equipped with complex compound mirror with diameter of 39 meters.

The main phase of construction ELT began in may 2017, after several years of debate and discussion on the topic where it is best to build. According to the current object are going to pass in 2024. At the time of approval of the construction plan in 2012, the total project cost was estimated at 1.12 billion dollars. In 2018, under the action of inflation, the cost of the telescope rose to 1.23 billion dollars. According to the latest projections by 2024, the total cost of the project should be around 1.47 billion dollars (when the degree of inflation of 3%).

To build such a system must in the high-altitude region, where the efficiency of the observations will not be affected by atmospheric changes and light pollution. And yet, the construction site must have a perfectly smooth surface to lay the Foundation for a very solid installation. After spending years searching for the European southern Observatory, a place not found and in the end decided to make one yourself – on the top of mount Armazones in Chile. As seen in the photo below, the builders have already laid the Foundation of the telescope.

Key features and capabilities of the new telescope ELT will be in its primary mirror, which will be composed of 798 hexagonal parts, each of which diameter would be 1.4 meters. In the end, therefore, of the pieces will be collected a 39-metre mirror, able to receive data with an unprecedented level of quality, which is not capable of any of the existing telescopes.

For example, the Very large telescope (VLT) the European southern Observatory is currently the largest and most technologically advanced optical telescope – is a complex of four individual 8.2-metre and four auxiliary 1.8-meter optical telescopes that are combined in one system. Having the opportunity to work in a mode of the interferometer, the angular resolution of the VLT became the equivalent of a telescope with a solid mirror of 200 meters. But even so, the 39-meter ELT will be able to exceed the capabilities of the VLT. Its area is a hundred times more, therefore, he will be able to monitor directly for a large number of light sources, while noting and close with significantly less brightness, to observe which are not capable of the current telescopes.

In addition, the diaphragm ELT will be inseparable, and do the resulting images would not require serious treatment. According to engineers, the ELT will be 200 times more effective than the same space telescope “Hubble”, which will make it the most powerful telescope operating in the optical and infrared ranges.

The project developers note that due to the sensitive mirror and adaptive optics, the settings of which will be adjusted based on atmospheric turbulence, ELT will be able to conduct direct observation of exoplanets that are orbiting distant stars, that is rarely possible with the use of current telescopes.

The artistic representation of the mirror Extremely large telescope

Since the telescope is really the most powerful in its class and can directly observing rocky exoplanets, then one of its scientific objectives is to study the atmospheres of those worlds. In this regard, the ELT will be able to produce a real revolution in the search for potentially habitable exoplanets beyond our Solar system.

And it’s not all its potential. For example, using Extremely large telescope, scientists will be able directly to measure the speed of expansion of the Universe, which will allow to solve several cosmological puzzles. For example, to find out the role played by dark energy in the evolution of the cosmos. Having the ability to more accurately study the past of the cosmos, astronomers will be able to build more accurate models of the Universe development.

In subsequent years, the ELT needs to join other ground-based telescopes of the new generation, such as the thirty-meter telescope (TMT), Giant Magellan telescope (GMT), “Antenna array area in square kilometer” (SKA), and a Spherical radio telescope with an aperture of pyatisotletny (FAST).

At the same time are running space telescopes – the same TESS, designed for the discovery of exoplanets by the transit method and the “James Webb” will be able to give strong support to ground units in the opening of the new space horizons.

The coming revolution in astronomy.

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