ESO Signs Contract for World’s Largest Telescope

At a ceremony in Garching bei München, Germany on 25 May 2016, ESO signed the contract with the ACe Consortium, consisting of Astaldi, Cimolai and the nominated sub-contractor EIE Group for the dome and telescope structure of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). This is the largest contract ever awarded by ESO and the largest ever contract in ground-based astronomy. At this occasion the construction design of the E-ELT was unveiled. This artist’s rendering of the E-ELT is based on the detailed construction design for the telescope.

A New Eye on the Sky, the European Extremely Large Telescope. Credit: ESO

 

Whenever possible, Innerspace likes to end the work week with an another in the steady stream of image releases from the European Southern Observatory, which operates a series of ground based facilities in Chile’s Atacama desert.

Earlier this week, ESO issued an organizational announcement which means the images are only going to keep getting better and better, as a contract is signed for construction of the world’s largest optical telescope.

From the ESO announcement:

“The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), with a main mirror 39 metres in diameter, will be the largest optical/near-infrared telescope in the world: truly the world’s biggest eye on the sky. It will be constructed in northern Chile, on a site that has already been prepared.

The contract to build the telescope’s dome and structure was signed by ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, the Chairman of Astaldi, Paolo Astaldi, and the President of Cimolai, Luigi Cimolai. ESO was delighted to welcome Italy’s Minister of Education, Universities and Research, H.E. Stefania Giannini, to the ceremony, which was also attended by the Italian Consul General in Munich, Renato Cianfarani, the ESO Council President, Patrick Roche, and the Italian ESO Council Delegates, Nicolò D’Amico (who is also President of INAF) and Matteo Pardo, Scientific Attaché at the Italian Embassy in Berlin. The President of EIE, Gianpietro Marchiori, and other guests and representatives of the consortium were also present.

The contract covers the design, manufacture, transport, construction, on-site assembly and verification of the dome and telescope structure. With an approximate value of 400 million euros, it is the largest contract ever awarded by ESO and the largest contract ever in ground-based astronomy.

The E-ELT dome and telescope structure will take telescope engineering into new territory. The contract includes not only the enormous 85-metre-diameter rotating dome, with a total mass of around 5000 tonnes, but also the telescope mounting and tube structure, with a total moving mass of more than 3000 tonnes. Both of these structures are by far the largest ever built for an optical/infrared telescope and dwarf all existing ones. The dome is almost 80 metres high and its footprint is comparable in area to a football pitch.

The E-ELT is being built on Cerro Armazones, a 3000-metre peak about 20 kilometres from ESO’s Paranal Observatory. The access road and leveling of the summit have already been completed and work on the dome is expected to start on site in 2017.”

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