The Extremely Large Telescope
The world's biggest eye on the sky
Extremely Large Telescopes are considered worldwide as one of the highest priorities in ground-based astronomy. They will vastly advance astrophysical knowledge, allowing detailed studies of subjects including planets around other stars, the first objects in the Universe, super-massive black holes, and the nature and distribution of the dark matter and dark energy which dominate the Universe.
Since 2005 ESO has been working with its community and industry to develop an extremely large optical/infrared telescope.
Dubbed ELT for Extremely Large Telescope, this revolutionary new ground-based telescope concept will have a 39-metre main mirror and will be the largest optical/near-infrared telescope in the world: “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.
The ELT programme was approved in 2012 and green light for construction was given at the end of 2014. The first stone ceremony for the telescope was attended by the President of Chile in May 2017. First light is targeted for 2024.
Science with the ELT
The ELT will tackle the biggest scientific challenges of our time, and aim for a number of notable firsts, including tracking down Earth-like planets around other stars in the "habitable zones" where life could exist — one of the Holy Grails of modern observational astronomy. It will also perform "stellar archaeology" in nearby galaxies, as well as make fundamental contributions to cosmology by measuring the properties of the first stars and galaxies and probing the nature of dark matter and dark energy. On top of this astronomers are also planning for the unexpected — new and unforeseeable questions will surely arise from the new discoveries made with the ELT.
General purpose extremely large aperture optical/infrared telescope. Some science areas are to be high redshift galaxies, star formation, exoplanets and protoplanetary systems.
Follow Cerro Armazones on this live image taken from Cerro Paranal. It is updated every hour during daytime. Click on it to enlarge.
More about the Extremely Large Telescope
- Preparing a Revolution
- Are We Alone?
- The First Objects in the Universe
- The ELT Concept
- Europe's Window on the Universe
- Finding a home
- The ELT in numbers
- The ELT instruments:
- More interesting facts are available on the FAQs page
- More images and videos are available in the ESO multimedia archive
- Read more on about this telescope on:
- For Scientists: for more detailed information, please see our technical pages
- ELT entry on Wikipedia
Watch the ESOcast 84: The New ELT Design Unveiled
Download this trailer in other formats from the Video Archive.
A Tour of Paranal and Cerro Armazones
Stars form in dense clouds of the interstellar medium, but even in these densest regions the pressure is comparable to the most tenuous vacuum created in a laboratory on Earth. In these clouds, the temperatures are below -200 degrees Celsius.
The ELT will gather 100 000 000 times more light than the human eye, 8 000 000 times more than Galileo's telescope, and 26 times more than a single VLT Unit Telescope. In fact, the ELT will gather more light than all of the existing 8–10-metre class telescopes on the planet, combined.