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Extremely Large Telescope project gets go-ahead

The European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) governing council has fully approved plans to build the European Extremely Large Telescope.

Construction for the project is to begin once funds have been secured to cover 90 per cent of the telescope’s total construction cost. So far, €615 million have been committed, which covers about 60 per cent of construction. The remaining funds are expected to come from Brazil, which is still in the process of ratifying its ESO membership.

The decision was made during a meeting this week at the ESO’s headquarters in Garching, Germany. At the meeting, the plans achieved ten votes in favour from ESO’s member states, satisfying the two-thirds majority needed for approval.

At the council’s last meeting, in June 2012, six member states (Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland) voted in favour of the project, while four (Belgium, Finland, Italy, and the UK) voted in favour ad referendum. As of this week’s meeting, Belgium, Finland, and Italy have confirmed their votes, France has also voted in favour, and the United Kingdom’s confirmation is pending.

Once built, the extremely large telescope will be the world’s largest optical/near-infrared telescope. It is to be located on Cerro Armazones, a mountain in southern Chile.