E-ELTEuropean Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT)

Contact details:

Dr. W.H.W.M. Boland
Postbus 9513 2300 RA Leiden

With its light collecting power and super sharp imaging, the European Extremely Large Telescope (EELT) will revolutionize our understanding of the Universe, from unraveling the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies to characterization of exoplanets, key topics of Dutch astronomy. Technological developments now enable astronomers to build this 39-m diameter telescope. In December 2014 ESO Council approved the construction of the E-ELT and its first three instruments. Operations start around 2025. One of the first three scientific instruments is METIS, an innovative imager and spectrometer working at mid-infrared wavelengths on which the Netherlands (NOVA) provides the Principal Investigator.

The 39-m diameter E-ELT will be the next major step in ground-based optical and infrared
astronomy. Its high spatial resolution and large photon-collecting area will allow scientific
breakthroughs in virtually all areas of astronomy, from our own solar system to the edge of the
Universe. It will be particularly powerful to (1) image rocky planets ('super-Earths') around other
stars and characterize exoplanet atmospheres; (2) probe the formation and evolution of galaxies
and the Universe as a whole, including the nature of the mysterious dark energy, and (3)
reconstruct the formation history of a representative sample of galaxies in the nearby Universe by
resolving stars in those galaxies. Active participation in the E-ELT is a top priority in the Strategic
Plan for Astronomy in the Netherlands.
In December 2014 the ESO Council approved Phase-1 of the construction of the E-ELT requiring
1040 M€. The telescope will be located on Cerro Amazones, about 20 km from ESO’s Paranal
Observatory in Northern Chile. Its operations start around 2025. The facility will be open to all
scientists in the ESO member states.
Construction work on the telescope and its supporting infrastructure has started and will be done by
industry of the ESO member states. Contracts are awarded based on an open tendering process to
the lowest price bidder that meets all requirements.
Phase-1 of the E-ELT includes the design and construction of three scientific instruments and most
of the Adaptive Optics facilities. The general framework is that ESO provides the telescope
infrastructure and the astronomical community the instrumentation for the telescope. This
instrument development will be done by consortia of astronomical institutes in the ESO member
states. The institutes, with support from their national funding agencies, provide the labor effort and
laboratory infrastructures, and ESO contributes to the costs of instrument hardware. In return for
their efforts the consortia receive Guaranteed Time of Observing (GTO) on the E-ELT. This GTO
allows the institutes to be among the very first users of this new facility, resulting in new discoveries and publication of high-impact scientific papers.
The telescope, its infrastructure, and operations are funded by ESO from the contributions by its
member states. For the Netherlands the annual subscriptions to ESO are provided by the Ministry of
NOVA has been selected as lead institution for the Mid-infrared E-ELT Imager and Spectrometer
(METIS), which is one of the three first generation science instruments on the E-ELT. METIS is a
general purpose instrument for infrared astronomy, operating in the 3–19 μm wavelength range and
providing diffraction-limited imaging, coronagraphy, low resolution slit spectroscopy and high
resolution (R~100,000) integral field spectroscopy. On 28 September 2015 ESO and NOVA have
signed the contract to design, build, test, and commission METIS with a delivery target in early
2026. As PI, NOVA is leading a consortium with partners in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany,
Switzerland and United Kingdom. Total budget envelope for METIS is 50 M€.

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