ESO To Build World's Biggest telescope
ESO To Build World's Biggest telescope. Image: ESO

The European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Council gave green signal to the giant project of building world's largest optical telescope on Monday.

The meeting was held at the ESO headquarter in Garchin, Germany, where 10 countries gave nod and supported the project, ESO announced in a statement.

"This is an excellent outcome and a great day for ESO, We can now move forward on schedule with this giant project," ESO Director General Tim de Zeeuw said in a statement.

"The E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope) will tackle the biggest scientific challenges of our time," ESO spokesman said in the meeting. "It will help tracking down Earth-like planets around other stars in the 'habitable zones' where life could exist - one of the Holy Grails of modern observational astronomy."

Two-third of the council decision makers gave the final approval to the projects, initiated by alliance of 15 European countries to built "Extremely Large Telescope" that will directly image planets outside the solar system and suns orbiting in the "habitable zone."

The 1.1 billion-euro ($1.35-billion) project will begin soon and is likely to start operations in about a decade from now. The telescope will be sited close to ESO's Paranal Observatory, atop Cerro Armazones in northern Chile.

The E-ELT will be a 39 meter segmented-mirror telescope, made of nearly 800 hexagonal sections, it will gather 12 times more light than any telescope operating in today's date and will give a much detailed and clear view of the universe then seen ever before.

"Its unique combination of sharp imaging and huge light collecting area will allow us to observe some of the most exciting phenomena in the universe in much better detail," said Isobel Hook, Oxford University scientist working on the E-ELT project.

"We'll be able to observe distant galaxies in the process of formation, see the effects of massive black holes on their environment and even search for planets in 'habitable zones' beyond our solar system, where life could exist," Hook added.

According to the press statement, six countries including Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland voted to begin the project, while the Belgium, Finland, Italy, and the United Kingdom's representatives said they are awaiting confirmation from their government.

"Today's announcement is an important step towards construction, though the final go-ahead depends of course on obtaining approval by a number of governments ... to such a long-term financial commitment," Reuters cited, John Womersley, chief executive of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council, as saying.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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