Next Generation Telescopes
The first of ESO's next generation telescopes is almost finished on the Chajnantor Plateau. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter array (ALMA), a joint project of Europe, North America and Asia, will be composed of 66 high-precision antennas when it becomes fully operational in 2013.
Acting together as a giant telescope, ALMA will reveal the finest details of the cool Universe, spotting the birth of the first galaxies and peeking inside the dusty clouds of molecular gas - stellar nurseries where new stars and planets are born.
While ALMA is nearly completed and already producing outstanding results, ESO's crowning jewel is still a few years away. The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be the world's biggest eye on the sky. Sporting a 39-metre main mirror, the E-ELT will dwarf every telescope that preceded it.
The E-ELT will be a powerful tool to help to find life elsewhere in the Universe, by looking for biosignatures on the atmospheres of Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars. The E-ELT will also be able to capture light from very faint and distant objects, revealing much about the early history of the Universe, when stars first began to shine.