Construction has finally been approved today by the European Southern Observatory’s Council and will mean that by 2024 – humans will be the proud new owners of a telescope fittingly named “ European Extremely Large Telescope.” The Director General of the ESO noted in a statement that “The decision taken by Council means that the telescope can now be built,” and that “major industrial construction work for E-ELT is now funded and can proceed according to plan.”
This is a major step for the space community, specifically within the family of the European Union who has wanted to make this a reality since the project was approved for the first time back in June of 2012. While the approval will continue to come in phases, as the overall funding is achieved for each phase – this was the largest step since this was the one that would actually require breaking ground and beginning the construction in Chile where the telescope will find its new home.
The excitement around the project is huge since this telescope will give scientists the opportunity to study and evaluate exoplanets that are approximately the size of Earth, and even evaluate and study star groupings from nearby galaxies. At this point, the EU has sanction somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 billion euros to get this first phase underway. However, by the time the next phase is reached, the telescope will be fully-operational. Then, when additional funding is secured to ensure that the next phase is possible – the move will be to improve the quality of the images received by the telescope.
Much of the funding for this project came from European countries, but the most-recent and last investor that bought in was Poland who was the nation that provided the funding to get over the final hump and move into a production phase – that will allow construction to begin on the telescope. In American currency, it would have cost approximately $1.24 billion to get where the EU is today, and comparatively speaking, this is something that was largely regarded as one of the biggest missions in development that scientists have been working on and working to get approved for construction.
This would by far be the largest telescope in the world and would provide scientists with capabilities that they have never had before on Earth.