Good news for the European Southern Observatory’s Extremely Large Telescope. Construction of the telescope, boasting a 128-foot wide composite mirror (extremely large indeed), has been approved.

15 countries from Europe and South America make up the European Southern Observatory organization. These countries approved the $1.3 billion telescope back in 2012, under one primary condition. The countries involved in the project fund 90% of the expenses. On Wednesday, the ESO announced the condition has been met and said construction can begin.

“The decision taken by Council means that the telescope can now be built, and that major industrial construction work for the E-ELT is now funded and can proceed according to plan. There is already a lot of progress in Chile on the summit of Armazones and the next few years will be very exciting,” said Tim de Zeeuw, ESO’s Director General.

Construction will be broken into two phases. Phase one will encompass the dome and the telescope. This is expected to take 10 years and more than $1 billion. Researchers can start using ‘Extremely Large Telescope’ after the first phase is completed. The second phase will see additional improvements to the telescope including parts of the main mirror and optics system.

Funding for the second phase is expected once Brazil joins the other member countries.

Once completed, the Extremely Large Telescope will search for planets in other solar systems. With the ability to collect about 100 million times more light than the human eye, combined with the clear skies of the Chilean desert – the Extremely Large Telescope will discover thousands of new planets. More importantly, it will hunt for planets more similar to Earth. Not gas giants, which make up a large portion of the exoplanets discovered.

Check out the ESO FAQ to learn more about this humongous telescope.

Wikipedia user Cmglee put together this cool comparision chart showing how big the Extremely Large Telescope is compared to other telescopes around the world.

telescope comparison

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