Santiago: The Council of the European Southern Observatory, or ESO, has approved the construction in the Atacama desert of the world's most powerful telescope, capable of studying whether life exists in other galaxies.
Within 10 years, the telescope, which will cost some 1 billion euros (or $1.29 billion), will be fully operative and will allow enormous scientific progress to be made in studying exoplanets, the stellar composition of the nearest galaxies, and the deep universe.
"The announcement of the construction is news that we have been waiting to release for a long time," the ESO representative in Chile, Fernando Comeron, said Friday, adding that approval constituted "a great moment for the organisation".
According to ESO General Director Tim de Zeeuw, the announcement means that "the telescope can now be built, and that major industrial construction work for the E-ELT (the European Extremely Large Telescope) is now funded and can proceed according to plan".
The E-ELT will be located on Armazonas mountain at an altitude of 3,000 metres, and will have a 39-metre optical aperture, making it "the world's biggest eye for viewing the sky," according to the organisation.
Construction of the E-ELT had been approved by the ESO Council last June on condition that any contracts of more than 2 million euros (or $2.49 million) would be awarded once it had obtained financing for 90 percent of the total cost of the telescope, estimated in 2012 at 1.083 billion euros (or $1.35 billion).
The powerful telescope will permit a search for planets similar to Earth, the study of star populations in the nearest galaxies and research into the deep universe, the ESO representative in Chile said.