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Getting ready for Europe's extremely large telescope

An EU-funded project has made preparations for the construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The work has resulted in a comprehensive science case and the development of crucial enabling technologies.

Industrial Technologies

Astronomical discoveries have a special way of sparking the public's innate curiosity about the Universe. Facilities like the E-ELT are therefore not only important for science, but also for the public's understanding and appreciation of science. The ʹPreparing for the construction of the European extremely large telescopeʹ (E-ELT PREP) project assisted the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in giving the go-ahead to build the E-ELT. The preparations made by this initiative were crucial in ensuring that the facility would be for the community, by the community. In line with the project's emphasis on establishing coordination with similar projects around the world, the E-ELT PREP team also focused activities on creating networks of ESO astronomers and engineers. In addition, they looked at how to optimise the science output of the telescope, which depends largely on instrumentation. As such, eight innovative instrument concepts were studied as part of the E-ELT design. New technologies that would enable the telescope to better detect, for example, Earth-like exo-planets or the first lights in the early Universe, were also investigated. Some of these technologies are even being applied in other fields like biological microscopy. Another focus of the project was to encourage as much involvement as possible from high-tech European industries. This will obviously benefit the E-ELT, as well as help raise the bar when it comes to competiveness.

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