Last updated at 12:21 BST, Friday, 20 June 2014

Mountaintop blasted to build huge telescope

Summary

20 June 2014

Astronomers have blown the top off a mountain in Chile. The explosion has created a flat area of land upon which the world's biggest telescope - called the European-Extremely Large Telescope - can be built. Scientists say that once it has been built, it will allow them to see deeper into space than ever before.

Reporter:

Rebecca Morelle

Close up of a half moon

The E-ELT telescope will be able to see far beyond the moon

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Report

It was an explosive start to the construction of a telescope that will revolutionise astronomy. In an instant, the top of a 10,000 foot (3,000m) high mountain was flattened, clearing the way for the Extremely Large Telescope.

Located in Chile's Atacama desert, the structure will be size of a football stadium. At its heart is a mirror measuring 130 feet (40m) across - and this will transform our view of deep space. Dr Aprajita Virma from the University of Oxford in the UK is working on the project.

Dr Aprajita Virma, University of Oxford:
The extremely large telescope will be able to see right back as far as we can go in the observable universe and look at the very first stars that formed and when basically the Universe switched on. For exoplanets, extra-solar planets, we'll be able to look at their atmospheres and compare them to the planets in our own solar system and potentially look for signs of life.

Once the rock and rubble form the mountain is cleared, construction will begin in earnest. The telescope will take 10 years to complete.

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Vocabulary

revolutionise

completely change (how something is done or how people think)

astronomy

the scientific study of the universe and of stars, planets, and other objects in the universe

clearing the way

making it possible (for something to happen)

structure

large building built from parts

at its heart

in the centre

transform

completely change and make better

in earnest

with purpose and determination

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