A generation ago, the ten-meter telescope was the top-drawer, acme, pinnacle, and hot tamale of optical telescope design. The ones of about that size built over the last 20 years remain the standards of excellence. On Monday evening, after years of design work, the European Southern Observatory's backers, 14 of the semi-continent's nations with Brazil lined up to join, agreed to pull together about £800,000,000 or roughly a billion dollars to assure construction of the first, next big thing in the star-gazing biz. Full cost to completion will be a bit more, maybe a billion euros. The E-ELT, for European Extremely Large Telescope, is to have a segmented mirror 40 meters across and reside in dome three times as wide and tall as the one on the US Capitol Building. That's huge, although one must not forget that at one time ESO entertained notions of one with a 100 meter mirror called the OWL for OverWhelmingly Large telescope. But even at 40 meters the total area of this one mirror is more than all existing eight and ten-meter class telescopes combined - probably more than all professional optical telescopes, period. The pic shows it compared to a few current ones plus that standard unit, the Arc de Triomphe. (HI-Res Here)
The project's aim is for operation in ten years on a Chilean mountaintop within the Atacama Desert, a place already studded with telescopes. It is big in European media particularly. US outlets carry it as well. A few refer to two US teams that, with private donation drives well underway, are aiming for similar-sized instruments in a similar time frame.
- BBC - Jonathan Amos : European Extremely Large Telescope given go-ahead ; It turns out the vote is mixed. Six countries said they are ready to go. Four, including the UK, had their delegates nod yes with the caveat they don't yet have their governments' formal approvals. Four said they're working on building the case at home.
- AFP - World's biggest optical telescope wins key approval ;
- Reuters - Chris Wickham: Green light for world's biggest optical telescope ;
- Wired UK - Mark Brown:World's largest telescope gets green-lit, will image exoplanets in 2020s ; Good quick roundup - so quick Brown quotes a price tag one order of magnitude too big.
- Telegraph - Donna Bowater: World's biggest telescope given go-ahead ;
- ScienceNOW - Govert Schilling: Monster Telescope Takes Another Step Forward ; Schilling is among the most experienced astro writers around. It shows. Schilling does more than to select bits from press releases. Included is his reference to the US entries, the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope. While smaller (a 30 meter mirror has barely half the expanse of a 40 meter one), they too would move the field forward dramatically.
- Houston Chronicle SciGuy blog- Eric Berger: The great telescope race is on!; Berger warns other projects, "Finishing second means fighting for scraps." That is harsh. One suspects, as with the platoons of telescopes now at work, there is plenty to go around. First is best, but second is not a sentence to mediocrity.
- Universe Today - Nancy Atkinson: Coming Soon: World's Largest Optical Telescope ;
- Charlie Petit