Groundbreaking for the E-ELT

Today a groundbreaking ceremony took place to mark the next major milestone towards ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Part of the 3000-metre peak of Cerro Armazones was blasted away as a step towards levelling the summit in preparation for the construction of the largest optical/infrared telescope in the world.

The groundbreaking ceremony at Paranal Observatory, 20 kilometres away from the blasting, was attended by distinguished guests from both Chile and the ESO Member States, as well as representatives of the local communities, senior officials from the project and ESO staff. The event was also streamed live online and a recording of the event can now be viewed.

The order to proceed with the blasting was given by the Chilean Vice Minister of National Assets, Jorge Maldonado.

During the groundbreaking ceremony the Chilean company ICAFAL Ingeniería y Construcción S.A. blasted part of the top of Cerro Armazones and loosened about 5000 cubic metres of rock. This is just one part of an elaborate levelling process which will help landscape the mountain, so that it can accommodate the 39-metre telescope and its huge dome. A grand total of 220 000 cubic metres will need to be removed to make room for the 150 metre by 300 metre E-ELT platform.

The Cerro Armazones civil works started in March 2014 and are expected to take 16 months. These include the laying and maintenance of a paved road, the construction of the summit platform and the construction of a service trench to the summit.

The E-ELT first light is planned for 2024, when it will begin to tackle the biggest astronomical challenges of our time. The giant telescope is expected to allow the exploration of completely unknown realms of the Universe — it will be: “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

Source: European Southern Observatory
Date: Jun 19, 2014