When the European telescope initiative was launched and given the name the European Extremely Large Telescope I chuckled, in fact I had visions of ‘astro geeks’ rolling on the floor at the deliberate irony and forced ineptitude of the name; the best and brightest engineers on the planet and that’s the best they could come up with?
Of course it was deliberate, they simply cut through what they must have perceived as nonsense, but there was also a simple genius to the name. They didn’t need branding experts to do their thing for months and stiff them with a large bill, they needed a simple descriptive name that would ‘travel’ internationally, reflecting that the product would do exactly what it said on the tin, the E-ELT..
European Southern Observatory (ESO) Director General commented in a press release that “With the new E-ELT design we can still satisfy the bold science goals and also ensure that the construction can be completed in only 10-11 years.” The ESO Council endorsed the revised baseline design in June 2011 and expects a construction proposal for approval in December 2011.
The telescope’s “eye” will be almost half the length of a football pitch (soccer field) in diameter and will gather 15 times more light than the largest optical telescopes operating today. The telescope has an innovative five-mirror design that includes advanced adaptive optics to correct for the turbulent atmosphere, giving exceptional image quality. The main mirror will be made up from almost 800 hexagonal segments. If completed it may be the largest of a new generation of extremely large telescopes.
The E-ELT is a frontline scientific project that will further expand Europe’s leading role in astronomy and allow people to address many of the most pressing unsolved questions about the Universe. It will allow astronomers to probe the earliest stages of the formation of planetary systems and to detect water and organic molecules in proto-planetary discs around stars in the making. In other words, it is the first telescope that could enable us to identify life beyond the Solar System. On 26 April 2010, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Council selected Cerro Armazones, Chile, as the baseline site for the planned E-ELT..
Whatever branding and solution the best and brightest minds in the banking and political elite decide on over the next two days, in their latest in the series of never ending summits, there’s one luxury they don’t have which the engineers of the E-ELT did have and that’s time. However, similar to the engineers and decision makers involved in the telescope project they do have a simple solution at hand. Just as the vision behind the E-ELT was to provide the “biggest and best” the E.U. ministers should have one goal in mind; to open up the ECB to a style of quantitative easing lending and provide the biggest lending surety the continent has ever witnessed.
Whilst the total sums are “out there with Pluto” in their astro physical nature any further debate, as unceremoniously pointed out by Standard & Poor’s earlier this week, is pointless. They either announce a combined circa $3 trillion ‘backstop’ (underwritten by the ECB and IMF) or let the economies of Europe implode creating a black hole of such economic dimensions that it won’t require the E-ELT to discover it…