Exoplanets » Telescopes of the Future

James Webb Space Telescope JWST is due for launch in 2014. It will replace the Hubble Space Telescope. One of its main objects will be to study the formation of planetary systems.

» The European Southern Observatory (ESO) «
The European Southern Observatory would be better described an observatory complex since it operates a number of telescopes in different parts of the Atacama Desert in Chile. The first site is at a 2400 metre high mountain called La Silla 600 kilometres north of Santiago de Chile. It is equipped with several optical telescopes with mirror diameters of up to 3.6 metres. The 3.5-m New Technology Telescope (NTT) was the first in the world to have a computer-controlled main mirror La Silla remains one of the scientifically most productive observing sites in the world. 2600 m high Paranal Site with the Very Large Telescope array (VLT) is the flagship facility of European astronomy.  It consists of 4 telescopes and is 2,600 meters above sea level. The VLT is a most unusual telescope, based on the latest technology. It is not just one, but an array of four telescopes, each with a main mirror of 8.2-m diameter. With one such telescope, images of celestial objects as faint as magnitude 30 have been obtained in a one-hour exposure. This corresponds to seeing objects that are four billion times fainter than what can be seen with the naked eye. One of the most exciting features of the VLT is the possibility to use it as a giant optical interferometer. This is done by combining the light from several of the telescopes, including one or more of four 1.8-m moveable Auxiliary Telescopes, three of which are now in operation. In the interferometric mode, one can reach the resolution on the sky that would be obtained with a telescope of the size of the separation between the most distant of the combined mirrors. With the start of operations planned for 2019, the E-ELT will tackle the biggest scientific challenges of our time, and aim for a number of notable firsts, including tracking down Earth-like planets around other stars in the "habitable zones" where life could exist — one of the Holy Grails of modern observational astronomy. It featured in the recent Royal Society's 350 anniversary Exhibition in the Royal Festival Hall (July 2010). It is planned to built it in the Atacama desert where many of the present large European Southern Observatory (ESO) Telescopes are situated. Cerro Armazones is a mountain at an altitude of 3060 metres in the central part of Chiles Atacama Desert, some 130 kilometres south of the town of Antofagasta and about 20 kilometres from Cerro Paranal, home of ESOs Very Large Telescope. On 26 April 2010, the ESO Council selected Cerro Armazones as the baseline site for the planned 42-metre European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).

» The ALMA Project «
One ESO project which is already under way in conjunction with Japan and North America is the ALMA project. The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), one of the largest ground-based astronomy projects of this decade, is a major new facility for world astronomy. ALMA will be comprised of a giant array of 12-m submillimetre quality antennas, with baselines of several kilometres. An additional, compact array of 7-m and 12-m antennas is also foreseen. Construction of ALMA started in 2003 and now nearing completion 92015). The ALMA project is an international collaboration between Europe, Japan and North America. The Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), one of the largest ground-based astronomy projects of the next decade, is a major new facility for world astronomy. ALMA will be comprised of a giant array of 12-m submillimetre quality antennas, with baselines of several kilometres. An additional, compact array of 7-m and 12-m antennas is also foreseen. Construction of ALMA started in 2003 and is now (2015) almost complete and carrying out observations on the galaxies. ALMA is located on the high-altitude Llano de Chajnantor (5000 m elevation), east of the village of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. The ALMA project is a partnership between Europe, Japan, Taiwan and North America in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by ESO, in Japan by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences in cooperation with the Academia Sinica in Taiwan and in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of Japan by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc.

» Mauna Kea «
One of the greatest observatory complexes in the northern hemisphere lies on the top of Mauna Kea or 'The White Mountain' in Hawaii. It is administered by the University of Hawaii (Click here for more details). The 4,200 meter high summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii houses the world's largest observatory for optical, infrared, and submillimeter astronomy.

Ray Goodwin

Somewhere there are mountains
Glistening in the snow
Somewhere there are mountains
That we shall never know

Somewhere there are rivers
Flowing fast and free
Somewhere there are rivers
That we can never see

Somewhere there are oceans
And sun drenched island sands
Forests full of creatures
In vastly distant lands

Somewhere there’s a planet
Beneath an alien star
The people watch our tiny sun
And wonder where we are

One day perhaps we’ll find them
Across the void of space
Perhaps through ways as yet unknown
We’ll meet them face to face

The author of this web site Ray Goodwin holds B.Sc. Degrees from London University in Chemistry, Geology and Physiology and an M.Sc. in Biochemistry. He has spent most of his professional life teaching in Colleges of Technology. On his retirement he has entered the fields of astronomy, astrochemistry, astrobiology and space sciences. He has spent a great deal of his retirement in visiting amateur astronomy societies and in attending European Space Agency Symposia in ESTEC in the Netherlands and other scientific conferences in England and Sweden. He regularly attends the yearly European Astrofest in South Kensington London and other meetings in the UK. He has written scientific articles and given a number of lectures on diverse scientific subjects.

Readers of this web site are invited to e-mail the author ( ray@lifeinthecosmos.com) and discuss their opinions of the topics dealt with and suggest any changes which they think may be helpful.

Life in the Cosmos Website
Version 01.00 - April 20, 2015.