World's largest telescope project to go ahead
21 June 2012
Approval for construction of the world’s largest telescope has been welcomed by the vice-chancellor of a North Wales university.
Backing for the project from Glyndŵr University’s Professor Michael Scott follows an announcement by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) that the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be built on Mount Cerro Armazones in Chile.
Scientists and engineers at Glyndŵr University, St Asaph are currently involved in a €5m project to produce prototype mirror segments for the telescope’s primary mirror, using their expertise in ultra-precision polishing and highly complex optical metrology.
Professor Scott said: “We are delighted that such a fantastic, ground-breaking project will be going ahead – and we are even more delighted that our own researchers are involved.
“Chile may be thousands of miles away but work by our team of world-class scientists is well underway right on our doorstep here in north Wales. The project has the potential to bring significant economic investment into the region and we look forward to working closely with ESO over the coming months.”
The £multi-million contract to build seven hexagonal prototype mirror segments, each 1.5m diameter, for the E-ELT, was awarded to OpTIC in December 2007.
It novated to OpTIC Glyndŵr, a subsidiary of Glyndŵr University, in July 2009.
The E-ELT will be 30 times more sensitive than current largest optical telescopes and have a 39m diameter primary mirror made up of 798 hexagonal segments when it is completed, estimated to be 2022.
Professor Scott added: “The standard of work, the intricacy and attention to detail in producing the mirrors is quite astounding, but absolutely necessary. The E-ELT will revolutionise astronomy in a way which we haven’t seen.
“At a time when the UK’s economic future remains uncertain, the university has the potential to provide a massive boost to the local and regional economy here in north Wales through the telescope project.”
The E-ELT prototype project is being led by Professor Paul Rees of Glyndŵr University and Professor David Walker, research professor of Glyndŵr University and University College London UCL.