Toward an extremely large European telescope

ESO sets-up ELT Project Office

ESO, the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, is taking an important step towards the realisation of a new, giant telescope for Europe's astronomers, by creating the ESO Extremely Large Telescope Project Office. It will be headed by Jason Spyromilio, formerly La Silla Paranal Observatory Director.

"We believe that the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) is essential if we are to ensure the continued competitiveness of the astronomical community in ESO's member-states. This goal can be achieved in a timely manner through ESO and the community working closely together, and the establishment of the ELT project office is a significant step in this direction", says Catherine Cesarsky, ESO's Director General.

"In its December 2004 Resolution, ESO's Council requested ESO to launch the construction of an ELT on a competitive timescale", says Jason Spyromilio. "The creation of the ELT Project Office is thus the logical step, following on the large amount of preparatory work on ELTs carried out in Europe, for instance in the framework of the OWL Conceptual Study [1], the EU co-funded ELT Design Study project [2] and more recently by the five ELT thematic working groups established by the Director General."

The ESO ELT Project Office, which is part of the ESO Telescope Systems Division (TSD), will work closely together with experts, from both ESO and the European scientific community, represented in the ELT Science and Engineering Working Group and in a Standing Review Committee established by the ESO Council.

"ESO aims to put the European Extremely Large Telescope on a 'fast-track', within a wide collaboration with its community and with the direct involvement of industry", says Roberto Gilmozzi, head of the ESO TSD and E-ELT Principal Investigator.

A baseline design is to be presented to the ESO Council at the end of 2006. The plan is a telescope with a primary mirror between 30 and 60 metres in diameter and a financial envelope of about 750 m Euros. It aims at more than a factor ten improvement in overall performance compared to the current leader in ground based astronomy: the ESO Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory.

The draft Baseline Reference Design will be presented to the wider scientific community on 29 - 30 November 2006 at a dedicated ELT Workshop Meeting in Marseille (France) and will be further reiterated. The goal is to start the detailed E-ELT design work by the first half of 2007.

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Notes

[1]: The OWL Conceptual Study for a 100-m telescope was initiated to explore totally new avenues for telescope construction. The study involved industry and the scientific community in the sense that it prompted the parallel effort - within OPTICON - to develop the ELT science case and also in early discussions regarding ELT instrumentation. The study was concluded by the end of 2005 with a review carried out by an international review panel, paving the way for the next step towards a European ELT. Other ELT studies include the so-called Euro-50 as well as studies mainly in the US.

[2]: The ELT Design Study is a technology development programme conducted by institutes and companies in Europe, Israel and Australia, coordinated by ESO. It is funded in part - about one third - by the European Commission under its Framework Programme 6, the rest being provided by the participating institutions themselves.


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