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We can see for miles and miles and miles: World's biggest telescope E-ELT is given go-ahead

'The telescope is very likely to make new discoveries that we can't even imagine now'

Scientists have been given the go-ahead to build the world's largest telescope which they hope will reveal if life exists outside the Solar System.

The European 'Extremely Large Telescope' (E-ELT) will have a diameter measuring an incredible 39.3-metres - half the length of a football field.

Plans to built the world's largest telescope have been given the green light. Photo credit: SWNS

It is hoped the incredible structure, which will take ten years to build and cost £880million, could answer the age-old question of whether we are alone in the universe.

The E-ELT’s main mirror is made up of 800 hexagonal segments and will be able to gather 15-times more light than the largest telescopes currently being used.

Billed as the ‘largest eye in the sky’, the E-ELT will improve scientists’ ability to study exoplanets, which are planets orbiting other stars like the sun, in better detail.

The E-ELT will hopefully give a greater insight into the formation of planets similar to Earth and possibly provide evidence of life on other planets.

The revolutionary telescope will be built in Cerro Armazones in northern Chile which, alongside Hawaii, is the number one place for space observation.

Artist's impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope Picture: AFP

This is thanks to the fact the area has 300-plus clear nights per year, is very dark at night and has smooth air which helps telescopes generate sharper images.

It will be located just 12 miles from the equally imaginatively named ‘Very Large Telescope’ which is currently the world’s most advanced optical instrument.

Professor Isobel Hook, the UK E-ELT Project Scientist from the University of Oxford, said: 'The telescope is set to revolutionise optical and infrared astronomy.

'Its unique combination of sharp imaging and huge light collecting area will allow us to observe some of the most exciting phenomena in the universe in much better detail.

'We'll be able to observe distant galaxies in the process of formation, see the effects of massive black holes on their environment and even search for planets in "habitable zones" beyond our solar system, where life could exist.

'And perhaps more importantly, the telescope is very likely to make new discoveries that we can't even imagine now.'



The ESO Council, which is made up of 13 European countries including the UK along with Brazil, approved the project at a meeting at the organisation’s headquarters in Garching, Germany.

Full-scale construction of the telescope, which is costing a staggering 1.1 billion euros (£880 million), is expected to get underway early next year and be completed by 2022.

Xavier Barcons, ESO council president, added: 'The E-ELT will keep ESO in a leading position for decades to come and lead to an extraordinary harvest of exciting science.'

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