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Media Advisory: Extremely Large Telescope First Stone Ceremony

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 6:57
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(Before It's News)

Media representatives are invited to attend the first stone ceremony of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) on Friday 26 May 2017 on Cerro Armazones, a 3046-metre peak in northern Chile about 20 kilometres from ESO’s Paranal Observatory. The ceremony will begin at 13:30 local time and is expected to finish around 15:30, and will also mark the connection of the observatory to the power grid. The first stone will be laid by the President of the Republic of Chile, Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet Jeria.

Media will have the opportunity not only to visit the spectacular site, but also to arrange interviews with senior figures both from the Chilean authorities and industrial contractors and with the scientists and engineers involved in building the giant telescope.

The ELT is a revolutionary new ground-based telescope that will have a 39-metre main mirror — making it the largest optical-near-infrared telescope in the world. It will take on some of the biggest astronomical challenges of our time, including discovering and studying Earth-like exoplanets, observing the first stars and galaxies to explore our origins, and probing the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

One year ago, ESO signed a contract with the ACe Consortium, consisting of Astaldi, Cimolai and the nominated sub-contractor EIE Group, for the construction of the ELT dome and telescope structure. This was the largest contract ever awarded by ESO and also the largest contract ever in ground-based astronomy.

The ELT is just the latest of many ESO projects that have benefited greatly from the continuing support of the Government of the Host State of Chile over more than half a century. The strong support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Energy (Minenenergia) and the National Commission for Energy (CNE) has recently been vital in establishing the successful connection of the site to the power grid. The ELT site was donated by the Government of Chile, and is surrounded by a further large concession of land to protect the future operations of the telescope from interference of all kinds.

Construction work on the ELT site began in June 2014, and now that the access road and leveling of the summit have been completed, work on the dome itself can now begin. The ELT is targeted to see first light in 2024.

To participate in the ceremony, bona fide members of the media should sign up here, and make their own travel arrangements to arrive at Antofagasta airport on the morning of 26 May.

More Information

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

Courtesy of European Southern Observatory


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