The Extremely Large Telescope
Astronomy in general and exoplanet research in particular are experiencing a golden age. The giant leaps forwards in astronomy have always been intimately connected to technological advances. A string of exciting astronomical telescopes are in the process of being realised, many of which will be used for exoplanet studies. In a major European collaboration plans are in their final phase for the construction of the world's largest optical telescope "The European Extremely Large Telescope", E-ELT. It will have a segmented mirror almost 40 metres in diameter and thus will collect more light than any other telescope, for instance more than 200 times the Hubble Space Telescope. Using so called adaptive optics the intention is to also achieve an extremely high resolution. The mechanical, electronical and optical demands on the construction are enormous, the necessary accuracy is in the nanometre range.
A final go-ahead decision was taken in December 2014 and plans are for first light in 2024. The telescope site has decided to be in the Chilean Andeans, near Antofagusta and close to the current site of the ESO Very Large Telescope. In exoplanet research the EELT is expected to have the capability to study in detail the direct light from exoplanets, in order to look for evidence of biological signatures in the spectrum.
Recently, the new super radio telescope ALMA, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, was inaugurated at a remote site, high in the Chilean Andes. The ceremony marked a transition to a new era, from a building project to a regular observatory. Now all the systems of the gigantic telescope are in full operation.