An artist’s impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), set to operate in Chile's

An artist’s impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), set to operate in Chile's Atacama Desert

A consortium led by Italian construction firm Astaldi has been awarded the contract to build the world’s largest optical telescope.

The ACe consortium comprises two Italian companies – Astaldi (60% share) and Cimolai (40% share) – winning bidders in the tender process initiated by the ESO (European Southern Observatory), the European organisation for astronomical research in the southern hemisphere.

The contract signed by ACe is valued at around € 400 million (US$ 446 million), with Astaldi’s share amounting to 60% and 40% going to Cimolai.

The signing ceremony was held last week in Munich, initiating the design and development of the dome of the main structure to house the E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope). Once completed, the telescope will operate at an elevation of 3,000 metres above sea level, in the central part of the Atacama Desert in Chile.

With primary mirrors exceeding 39 metres in diameter, the E-ELT will have the capacity to gather more light than all the largest telescopes on the planet combined.

Astaldi Group Chairman, Paolo Astaldi, said, “We are truly proud of being the lead company in this project, which will allow the international scientific community to go beyond the current limits of astronomy and astrophysics.

“In the past, we developed for CERN in Geneva the Large Electron-Positron Collider, one of the world’s largest particle accelerators, which makes it possible to study the infinitely small: now, with the E-ELT, we’ll be able to take on a scientific instrument that can observe the infinitely large.”

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