Green light for construction of the "world's largest eye to the sky
The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be a 39-meter optical and infrared telescope, which will be placed on Cerro Armazones in the Chilean Atacama Desert. In May 2013 Portugal joined the group of 15 ESO Member States that will support the implementation of the E-ELT. In June 2012, the ESO Council had approved its construction, on the condition that contracts worth more than €2 million would only be approved when the total value of the telescope was 90% funded.
Poland's membership in ESO allows the funds currently allocated to the E-ELT to reach over 90% of the total cost of the first phase, which will ensure a fully operational telescope. The remaining 10% of the total project cost has been transferred to a second phase. Additional funds are expected to become available with the accession of Brazil as a Member State in the coming years. For these reasons, and to prevent the project from starting to lose momentum, the ESO Council decided to go ahead with the construction of the first phase of the 39-meter telescope. The funding includes the contract for the telescope dome and main structure - the largest contract in ESO's history - which will be awarded in late 2015 and will be the first step in building a fully operational E-ELT.
Portugal's participation in ESO has given the national astrophysics and astronomy communities access to a world-leading Earth observation infrastructure, which has been crucial for the growth and internationalization of scientific teams. The construction of the E-ELT also brings several excellent opportunities for national companies. Several have already secured contracts for ESO infrastructures. In fact, the industrial return target set by the ESO for member states was exceeded by Portugal in 2012.
Portugal has been a full member of the ESO since 2000, contributing about 1% of the organization's global budget.