eso1419 — Organisation Release
Groundbreaking for the E-ELT
Ceremony marks next major step forward for the world’s largest optical/infrared telescope
19 June 2014
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”.
 All of the structures that will later be erected at the site are specified in the E-ELT Construction Proposal, a 264-page comprehensive book with details of all aspects of the project, along with an executive summary. In June 2011, ESO Council endorsed the revised baseline design for the telescope and in December 2012 they fully approved the E-ELT Programme (see also ann13019, ann13033 and ann13042).
ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.
- Watch a recording of the blasting event online
- Information about the E-ELT
- Artist’s impressions of the E-ELT
- E-ELT design
- E-ELT Programme
- Virtual Tour of Paranal and Armazones (before the civil works)
- Road to Armazones Started
Lars Lindberg Christensen
Head of ESO ePOD
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
Cell: +49 173 3872 621