They say ours is a golden era. For astronomy, that is, and much thanks to old Europe and its European Southern Observatory (ESO) in partnership with Chile.
ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) is still an infant and already its baby brother E-ELT, the European Extremely Large Telescope, is about to be born 20km off, at Cerro Armazones. Extremely large but also extremely flexible, this bright new eye, 15 times sharper than good old Hubble Space Telescope, will have a 39-meter mirror made up of 800 hexagonal segments, like the eye of an insect, and it will stand 100m tall. It will also be the first project with ESO’s newest member, Brazil. Expected to start operating at the beginning of the next decade, the E-ELT will try to answer big questions about extrasolar Earth-like planets or the nature of dark matter and dark energy.
500 years after Magalhães’s circumnavigation, 400 years after Galileo’s first telescope, broad vision and state-of-the-art technology come together once again to give mankind its “biggest eye on the sky”. Check it out!
ANA SAMPAIO is a translator, and astronomy lover and she comes from Lisbon, Portugal.