Watch A Mountaintop Blow Up Live For Astronomy Tomorrow

by Elizabeth Howell on June 18, 2014

Artist's conception of the E-ELT (left) and Very Large Telescope compared with the Giza Pyramids. Credit: ESO

Artist’s conception of the E-ELT (left) and Very Large Telescope compared with the Giza Pyramids. Credit: ESO

While we space geeks are lucky enough to watch rocket launches regularly, it’s not often we get to see a mountain top being blown off for the sake of astronomy!

Tomorrow, the European Southern Observatory plans an event centered on a blast on Cerro Armazones, a 3,060-meter (10,000-foot) mountain in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The goal is to make way for construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope, which as its name implies will be a monster of an observatory. Read below for details on how to watch live.

“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,” ESO states on its page about the 39-meter (128-foot) optical/near-infrared  telescope.

The set-up crew for the E-ELT blast looks at Cerro Armazones. Credit: ESO

The set-up crew for the E-ELT blast looks at Cerro Armazones. Credit: ESO

“It will also perform ‘stellar archaeology’ in nearby galaxies, as well as make fundamental contributions to cosmology by measuring the properties of the first stars and galaxies and probing the nature of dark matter and dark energy.”

We’re sure astronomers can hardly wait for operations to start in the next decade or so. ESO will livetweet the event (also follow the hashtag #EELTblast, where you can ask questions) and watch the entire event live tomorrow here, starting around 12:30 p.m. EDT (4:30 p.m. UTC).

In related news, the last of the  Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array’s (ALMA’s) 66 antennas recently arrived at the ALMA site, which is 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) high on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. This ESO telescope was officially inaugurated last year.

For more information about the E-ELT, consult this ESO webpage.

View of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) site, which is 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Credit: A. Marinkovic/X-Cam/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

View of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) site, which is 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Credit: A. Marinkovic/X-Cam/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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