Artist’s impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
CREDIT: ESO

World’s Largest Telescope to Crown Europe’s 50-Year Space Legacy

by Elizabeth Howell, SPACE Contributor
Date: 30 November 2012 Time: 07:00 AM ET

When it is complete, the European Extremely Large Telescope in Chile will be the crown astronomical jewel of the European Southern Observatory, which celebrates its 50th birthday this year.

But construction of the world’s largest telescope will take $1.4 billion (1.084 billion Euros), a decade of work and an iron will on the part of the countries participating.

Most of the 14 member nations of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) are countries stricken by money difficulties sparked by the global recession that began in 2007. This pushed back construction of the 128-foot (39-meters) telescope from an expected start date of this year.

The project was approved in June. Most of the member countries have now committed financially, with the final ones expected to make their approvals in late 2012 or early 2013, ESO officials said.

“We remain confident that the European member states will give the green light,” Lars Lindberg Christensen, an ESO spokesperson, told SPACE.com during an interview from the organization’s headquarters in Germany. “In a situation where you have a slowdown of the economy, you need to invest in research and development. You need to invest in industry.”

Read more: World's Largest Telescope to Crown European Observatory's 50-Year History | ESO | Space.

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