On Top of the World
the ESO’s Very Large Telescope in the Paranal Observatory, which also sits on a Chilean mountaintop.
When complete in 2024, the European Extremely
Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be the world’s largest
and most powerful optical telescope. At 39 meters
(128 feet) in diameter, it will be four times larger
than the largest telescope in operation today. Site
preparation, which began in June, includes flattening a mountaintop in Chile’s Atacama Desert.
To ensure the € 1. 1 billion project goes smoothly,
sponsor European Southern Observatory (ESO), an
intergovernmental research organization based in
Germany, turned to someone within its own ranks
with relevant experience: Roberto Tamai. Before
becoming program manager of E-ELT, Mr. Tamai, a
native of Naples, Italy, served as deputy director for
What will the Extremely Large Telescope be
able to do that the Very Large Telescope hasn’t?
It will detect the atmosphere of planets where we
can expect life. With this telescope, we will be capable for the first time of imaging planets similar to
Earth. We will see if there are signs of chlorophyll,
signs of what is needed to have human life.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve
encountered with this project thus far?
Managing the expectations of colleagues and stake-