London: British scientists have taken on the leading role in building critical scientific instruments for the world’s biggest optical telescope worth 1 billion pounds which will hunt for life in other galaxies.
The European Extremely Large Telescope, the largest instrument of its kind ever built, will examine some of the oldest parts of the universe and could help scientists identify other Earth-like habitable planets, reports the Telegraph.
Now project bosses have approved designs drawn up by Oxford and Durham University researchers for instruments which will help astronomers take pictures of stars and planets in distant galaxies for the first time.
The E-ELT will be sensitive enough to take images of previously unseen objects, such as cold stars and more planets, and learn more about their atmosphere, what they are made of and whether they could support life.
The telescope could also shed light on mysterious “dark matter”, which is thought to make up most of the universe, and help scientists understand how galaxies and black holes evolved after the big bang.
If it is given approval, the E-ELT will be tens of times more sensitive than any other visible light-sensing telescope on Earth.
Its 40m wide mirror - made of 1,000 separate segments and measuring almost half the length of a football pitch - will have more than four times the diameter of any other ground-based telescope and will be able to gather 15 times more light than the largest similar facilities in use today.
A decision on whether to proceed with construction is due in December and, if given the go-ahead, the telescope would be expected to produce its first results by 2018.