Watch a mountain top blasted off in name of deep-space science

ESO's new telescope is expected to take its first glimpse of space in 2023.
By Brooks Hays  |  June 19, 2014 at 1:41 PM
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CERRO ARMAZONES, Chile, June 19 (UPI) -- The European Extremely Large Telescope is expected to be sizable -- the biggest in the world. The observatory is so extremely large, in fact, engineers had to blow off the top of a mountain to make room for it.

Usually, mountain tops are blasted off for the purpose of mining. South America is filled with mountains whose peaks have been obliterated in order to supply copper and other ores and rare earth metals to the rest of the world.

But Thursday, the top of the 9,842-foot Cerro Armazones mountain, a peak in the Chilean Andes, will be detonated so that scientists can get a better look at the stars. Once the more than 300,000 metric tons of mountain top dirt, rock and rubble is out of the way, the European Southern Observatory will begin constructing the 128-foot main mirror -- making it the "largest optical/near-infared telescope in the world."

The ESO, an astronomical organization including 14 European nations and Brazil, currently operates some of the world's largest telescopes.

ESO's new telescope is expected to take its first glimpse of space in 2023. It will help astronomers look farther into space than ever before, capturing some the cosmos' most ancient light and offering groundbreaking imagery of the early universe.

"The E-ELT will allow astronomers to reach deeper into space, further back in time and more intimately into the workings of the Universe than any other visible to infrared telescope ever built," explained Dr. Aprajita Verma, a lead scientist on the project.

In other words: today's big bang will help scientists better understand the Big Bang tomorrow.

The groundbreaking formalities followed by the explosion is scheduled for to begin at 12:30 p.m. It all can be viewed at the website LiveStream.

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