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Austrian role in developing the “retina“ of the ELT

The Extremly Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory © ESO/L. Calçada

The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is expected to be put into operation in the middle of this decade. For years work has been done on instruments for the world's largest optical telescope. They more or less serve as the retina of the EKLT, processing light from the huge mirrors. One of them is METIS, which passed its first design test. From the Austrian side, the participants in the project are the University of Vienna, the University of Innsbruck, Johannes Kepler University Linz and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The Institute for Industrial Mathematics at Johannes Kepler University Linz is developing a software package in cooperation with RICAM (Johann Radon Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics). It is for the simulation, quantification and reconstruction of image distortions caused by optical and atmospheric disturbances.

The supertelescope of the ESO is currently being built in Chile's Atacama Desert on the top of Mount Armazones at an altitude of 3,048 metres. Its main mirror boasts a diameter of 39 metres and consist of 800 hexagonal mirror elements. The telescope, involving investments of EUR 1.1 billion, will be capable of capturing thirteen times more light than previous telescopes. ESO compares the leap from current telescopes to the ELT with the difference between Galileo's eye and its telescope.

One special focus will be on observing exoplanets. METIS will enable a closer investigation of the atmospheres of exoplanets and the study of temperatures and seasonal weather conditions. Furthermore, METIS also has the potential to directly recognize terrestrial exoplanets.

Next phase of instrument development

Following an in-depth, positive evaluation of the concepts for optomechanics, electronics and software, the design of METIS can now be finalised. The actual construction of the instrument will begin in 2022. METIS is being constructed by an international consortium consisting of universities and research institutes from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Scotland, Portugal, Taiwan and the USA.

Read more here about the best research facilities in Austria.

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