Mountain summit blasted away to make way for E-ELT telescope

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On 19 June in Chile, part of the 3,000-metre peak of the Cerro Armazones Mountain was blasted away to prepare for the construction of the E-ELT, which is set to be the world’s largest optical/infrared telescope. This marks the first part of the levelling process to landscape the mountain in order to accommodate the 39 metre instrument on the mountain summit.

5,000m2 of rock was loosened on the Cerro Armazones summit by Chilean company ICAFAL Ingeniería y Construcción. A ceremony took place at the Paranal Observatory, 20 kilometres away from the blasting, with guests from Chile and the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Member States, as well as representatives of the local communities, senior officials from the project and ESO staff.

In total, 220,000 cubic metres will need to be removed to make room for the E-ELT platform, which will measure 150 x 300 metres. The Cerro Armazones civil works started in March and are expected to take 16 months.

The E-ELT first light is planned for 2024, when it will begin to tackle some of the biggest astronomical challenges. The telescope is expected to allow the exploration of completely unknown realms of the Universe and will become ‘the world’s biggest eye on the sky’.

Artist's rendition of the completed E-ELT | ESO 

The primary mirror of the E-ELT will be 39 metres in length, and the platform that the telescope stands on will be 150 x 300 metres.