A new era in space exploration is upon us.
Elon Musk's SpaceX has expanded the possibility for what we can do in space, and the latest development in astronomy is going to expand what we can learn about space. Construction began late last week on what will be the world's largest optical telescope.
The telescope is aptly named the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).
The telescope is being constructed on a 3,000 meter (9842.5 foot) high mountain in a Chilean desert. The President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, was present for the start of construction ceremony and noted the significance of this move to the sciences:
"With the symbolic start of this construction work, we are building more than a telescope here—It is one of the greatest expressions of scientific and technological capabilities and of the extraordinary potential of international cooperation."
It will boast some truly impressive measurements including a total weight of 5,000 tons (5,512 US tons), an 85 meter (279 ft) rotating dome, and a 39 meter (128 ft) diameter main mirror. The ELT will be five times larger than the largest telescopes in use today. The new equipment will allow for greater planet discovering ability and perhaps even help us discern the makeup of the atmospheres of alien worlds, giving us greater insights into a planet's ability to host life as-we-know-it.