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Construction of world’s largest “eye on the sky” gets go ahead


The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be a 39-metre aperture optical and infrared telescope positioned on Cerro Armazones in the Chilean Atacama Desert. In May 2013 Portugal joined the 15 member states of ESO that will support the construction of the E-ELT. The construction of the E-ELT had been approved by ESO’s Council in June 2012, under the condition that contracts with a value larger than 2 million euros could only be awarded once the total cost of the telescope was funded to a 90% level.

The accession of Poland to ESO takes the current funding commitments to the E-ELT to over 90% of the total cost of the first phase, that will bring a fully working E-ELT. The remaining 10% of the overall project costs have been shifted to a second phase. Additional commitments from upcoming Member State Brazil are expected in the coming years. For these reasons, and to prevent the project from slipping, the ESO Council decided that construction of the first phase of the 39-metre telescope may proceed. Funding includes the contract for the telescope’s dome and main structure -the largest contract in ESO’s history – which will be awarded in late 2015, the first step in the construction of a fully working E-ELT. 

Portugal’s participation in ESO has allowed the country’s astrophysical and planetary science communities access to a world-leading ground-based astronomical infrastructure and underpinned the development and internationalisation of the research groups. The construction of the E-ELT opens up numerous and advantageous opportunities for Portuguese companies, too. Several have already secured contracts for ESO infrastructures. In fact, in 2012 Portugal surpassed the goal for industrial return set by ESO for Member States.

Portugal is a full member of ESO since 2000, and contributes approximately 1% of the total budget.