We may be closer than ever before to unlocking the secrets of the universe, thanks to what is going on in Chile right now.
A major undertaking happening in South America could totally change our understanding of our universe. In northern Chile, near the European Space Observatory’s Paranel residencia, workers have begun construction on the Extremely Large Telescope.
This massive structure will include a main mirror measuring 39 meters, making it the largest optical and infrared telescope in the world, meaning the ELT will certainly live up to its name. The ELT will have the ability to correct for atmospheric turbulence, enabling incredible quality in its picture, and scientists celebrated the beginning of construction at a ceremony near the mountain where it will be built.
Scientists in the UK’s Science Technology Facility Council and at the University of Oxford are helping to build the huge telescope. It will have a spectrograph called HARMONI that is able to take thousands of images of a slightly different color all at once.
“Scientists are a step closer to understanding the inner-workings of the universe following the laying of the first stone, and construction starting on the world’s largest optical and infrared telescope,” the University of Oxford said in a statement.
The university in particular highlighted the importance of HARMONI.
“‘HARMONI’ will enable scientists to form a more detailed picture of the formation and evolution of objects in the Universe,” the statement reads. “Supporting researchers to view everything from the planets in our own solar system and stars in our own and nearby galaxies with unprecedented depth and precision, to the formation and evolution of distant galaxies that have never been observed before.”
Niranjan Thatte, Principal Investigator for ‘HARMONI’ and Professor of Astrophysics at Oxford’s Department of Physics, said in the statement: “For me, the ELT represents a big leap forward in capability, and that means that we will use it to find many interesting things about the Universe that we have no knowledge of today. It is the element of ‘exploring the unknown’ that most excites me about the ELT. It will be an engineering feat, and its sheer size and light grasp will dwarf all other telescopes that we have built to date.”