The Physics Boy

June 19, 2024

Worlds largest telescope ever built to watch the deep space

Worlds largest telescope ever built to watch the deep space
Image Credit: ESO, L. Calçada | Artist’s rendering shows the Extremely Large Telescope in operation on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile.

The world is in a race to build more and more telescopes to bring more detailed images of the deep Universe. In the middle of the Chilean Atacama Desert, there is an ongoing project to build the world’s largest telescope (ELT) on ground which will be approximately the size of the Roman Colosseum. This telescope will be at 3000 meters above sea level in the Atacama Desert.

The ELT is owned by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). ESO press released that the construction of the scientific instruments for the telescope will be at many sites, and one of the sites will be the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) UK ATC.

The first instrument of the ELT is the Mid-infrared ELT Imager and Spectrograph (METIS) which has passed its final design review. It will be the first to be manufactured sometime in 2028.

How is METIS imager is valuable component?

  1. The main focus of the Mid-infrared ELT Imager and Spectrograph (METIS) will be to study the planet-forming discs of gas and dust that might hold important information on galaxy formation and evolution.
  2. METIS imager is an advantage to the astronomers of ELT as it is capable of recording light signals from space in the mid-infrared spectrum. The planet forming disc are made up of dust particles and absorbs most of the visible light. So, the only way to observe such planet forming discs is the mid-infrared.
  3. METIS will also be contributing in the search of habitable worlds as colder objects like planets mostly radiate light in the mid-infrared.

Questions to be answered by ELT:

  1. Is there any Earth like planet around other stars?
  2. Is there any evedence of life outside our solar system?
  3. How the earliest galaxies were formed and evolve?


The Director at the STFC UK ATC Professor Gillian Wright said:

“I am extremely proud of the role that UK ATC plays in working with the European Southern Observatory and endeavours like the ELT construction.”

“We are living in a golden age for astronomy that is the result of widespread collaboration across borders and the technological leaps that this enables.”

“The METIS instrument will be invaluable to ensure that the ELT can look more precisely than ever before at mid-infrared light, in a bid to change our understanding of our place in the Universe.”

How ELT images will be more sharper than the iconic Hubble Telescope?

Worlds largest telescope ever built to watch the deep space
Image Credit: NASA Science

ELT will be capable to explore the universe in both visible and infrared wavelengths of light. It consists of a 39 meter primary mirror. It has a capacity to collect 100 million times more light than the human eye.

ELT has five mirrors to examine the universe in an extreme detail. Out of five mirrors three are in curved shapes to explore and take crystal clear images of the deep universe.

Though ELT is a ground based telescope still it has high-tech mirrors that is capable to produce images 16 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

METIS will be manufactured by an international consortium which includes more than 10 world leading astronomical research institutions.