The European Southern Observatory (ESO) recently made a remarkable contribution to the future of scientific exploration by burying a time capsule at the construction site of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). This exciting endeavor took place in 2017 and serves as a testament to the cooperation between ESO and Chile, as well as the significant science and technology behind this ambitious project.
Contained within the time capsule are various tokens that celebrate the dedicated staff of ESO, the fruitful partnership between ESO and Chile, and the intricate science that will be put to work in the ELT. Mementos from Chilean authorities were also included, underscoring the collaborative nature of this venture. These mementos encompass a plaque from former President Michelle Bachelet Jeria, a symbol of Chile’s support and commitment, as well as an assortment of drawings from talented Chilean children.
Among the treasures sealed within the time capsule are photographs of the ESO staff, forever capturing the faces behind this groundbreaking telescope. In addition, a book describing the future scientific ambitions of the ELT holds a prominent place in the capsule, serving as a visionary guide for the years to come.
The time capsule itself was carefully laid to rest in the wall of the ELT dome, located on Cerro Armazones in the Chilean Atacama Desert. It is adorned with an engraved hexagon, measuring one-fifth the size of the ELT’s primary mirror segments. This hexagon serves as a significant symbol, embodying the intricate craftsmanship and dedication that have gone into the construction of this extraordinary telescope.
With expected “first light” by 2028, the ELT is poised to become the world’s largest visible and infrared light telescope. This technological marvel is set to revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos by capturing and processing unparalleled amounts of light. Unlike current telescopes, the ELT will possess the capacity to provide remarkably sharp images, opening up new vistas for scientific exploration.
The awe-inspiring scientific goals of the ELT are multifaceted and diverse. Among its primary objectives are the study of exoplanets, black holes, and the earliest formations of galaxies and stars. By delving into these fundamental questions, the ELT has the potential to rewrite our understanding of the universe and our place within it.
The burial of this time capsule signifies not only a milestone in the construction of the ELT but also a celebration of the collaborative efforts between ESO and Chile. It serves as a testament to the dedication and passion that drive scientific discoveries, and heralds the beginning of a new era in humanity’s understanding of the cosmos.
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