The President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, met this past Tuesday 6 July with the director of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) consortium, Tim de Zeeuw, to talk about the construction of what will be the largest telescope in the world, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which will be installed in the north of the country.
At the meeting, also attended by the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfredo Moreno, the Dutch high official provided details to the president regarding the scientific scope of the telescope, which will be situated on the Armazones mountain in the Region of Atacama.
The project, the construction of which will start next year, will be at an elevation of 3,060 meters. The telescope will be equipped with a 42-meter diameter mirror, which is considered unique and will reaffirm Chile’s leading position in astronomical services worldwide.
Chile was chosen as the location for the ESO telescope on the basis of the “astronomical quality” of the skies in the northern part of the territory, which are renowned for the number of clear nights per year, the slight amount of water vapor and the stability of the atmosphere. Other relevant factors were construction and operating costs, in addition to the scientific synergy with other large installations.
In what represented the first meeting between Chilean authorities and the director of the astronomical organization, the minister of National Assets and Resources, Catalina Parot, analyzed with De Zeeuw the donation of 18,900 hectares of the Armazones mountain, near Antofagasta. This could increase to 32,600 hectares as construction of the E-ELT progresses.
In this way, ESO will be provided an astronomical protection zone defined by the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT), with all the exclusive scientific benefits this entails.