The Cerro Armazones, 3,060 meters in height, situated in the Atacama desert some 130 km south of Antofagasta, Chile, was the site chosen to install the telescope largest in the world -known as European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which also aspired Spain, as reported by the Council of European Southern Observatory (IT). "This is an important milestone that allows us to finalize the design basis of this ambitious project, which will allow significant progress in the astronomical knowledge," said Tim de Zeeuw, Director General of that. "I thank the team that selected the place by the enormous work done in recent years".
The next step that is to build the telescope european optical-infrared extremely large (E-ELT), with a primary mirror of 42 meters in diameter. The E-ELT will be "the eye largest in the world in the sky", the only telescope of its kind in the world. That is designing detailed plans for the construction with the cooperation of the community.
The E-ELT addressed many of the questions more pressing still unresolved in astronomy, and could eventually revolutionize our perception of the Universe as much as the telescope of Galileo did 400 years ago. The green light for the construction is expected at the end of 2010 and the start of operations for 2018. Several factors had to be considered in the process of site selection. Obviously, the "quality astronomical" of the atmosphere (for example, the number of nights cleared, the amount of water vapor and "stability" of the atmosphere, also known as seeing) has played a crucial role.
But also had to be taken into account other parameters, such as the cost of construction and operation, and synergies scientific and operational with other large facilities (VLT/VLTI, SIGHT, VST, SOUL, SKA, etc).
Why in Chile and not in Spain?
The decision about the location of E-ELT has been adopted by delegates of the 14 member countries of THAT and is based on an exhaustive investigation comparative meteorological, which has lasted for several years.
In March 2010, the Council that received a preliminary report with the main findings of the Advisory Committee for the Site Selection of E-ELT. These findings confirmed that all places examined in the short list (Carcassing, Gales, Tolonchar and Vizcachas in Chile, and the Palma in Spain) have very good conditions for astronomical observation, each with its strengths. The technical report concluded that Cerro Armazones, near Paranal, where another giant of the astronomy as VLT (Very Large Telescope), stresses such as the location clearly preferred, since it offers the best balance of quality of heaven among all the factors considered, and that can be operated in an integrated manner with the Observatory Paranal of that. Cerro Carcassing and Paranal share the same ideal conditions for astronomical observation. Both have more than 320 nights cleared a year. The most of the information gathered during the selection process will be published in the course of 2010.