Chile figures as the most likely destination for the world’s largest telescope

The advantages that Cerro Armazones offers in northern Chile point to it as the ideal place to install this modern device, according to a report prepared by the European Southern Observatory, which must make the decision on where to build the telescope.

Chile has the best conditions to install the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which is considered the world’s largest telescope
Chile has the best conditions to install the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which is considered the world’s largest telescope

According to the technical report prepared by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), Chile has the best conditions to install the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which is considered the world’s largest telescope.

According to the organization in charge of the project, Cerro Armazones in the Antofagasta region—the site Chile proposed for the sophisticated apparatus—is the perfect location because it has the best quality skies in every aspect and the fact that it can be fully operated in conjunction with ESO’s Cerro Paranal, just seven kilometers (4.35 miles) from the location proposed for the E-ELT.

The report that details all of the advantages was delivered to the delegates of the ESO Council, who met March 2–3 to analyze the telescope’s final destination. Once their definitive decision is announced, they will proceed to finalize the detailed design of the telescope and prepare a proposal for building it.

The conclusions were drawn up by the E-ELT Site Selection Advisory Committee, who submitted all of the information to the Committee so that it can make its decision at the next meeting, when they will consider all of the natural advantages the country has to offer.

The document adds that the La Palma in Spain, the other candidate for the telescope, also presents excellent alternatives for astronomic observation, but that Armazones is better because its skies have greater quality and clarity and it is a safe location and not subject to catastrophes such as the earthquake that recently affected the central south of the country, but which will not influence the final decision.

The national authorities charged with nominating Chile as an alternative for the construction of the E-ELT evaluated the results of the report. According to Gabriel Rodríguez, director of Science, Technology, and Research of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country is close to becoming the world’s first astronomical seat, which would further strengthen the possibility of installing the telescope here.

«Astronomic research will be able to grow even faster than it has to date, but the installation of a telescope of this dimension also brings with it a significant transfer of technology. We will have greater participation and development in the future,” said Rodríguez.

Chile is internationally renowned for its contributions to astronomy and science, such as the discovery of enigmatic supernovas and the first image of an extra-solar planet, among other advances.