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Future Observing Facilities


The VLT Survey Telescope is a 2.61m diameter imaging telescope conceived for the Paranal Observatory to support the VLT through its wide-field capabilities and to perform stand-alone survey projects.

It features a f/5.5 modified Ritchey-Chretien optical layout, a two lens wide-field corrector, with the dewar window acting as a third lens and an optional atmospheric dispersion compensator, an active primary mirror, a double-hexapod driven secondary mirror, and an alt-azimuth mounting. It shall operate from the UV to the I band, preserving, within a corrected field of view of 1o x 1o, the excellent seeing conditions achievable at the Cerro Paranal site. The telescope will be equipped with just one focal plane instrument, OmegaCAM, a large format (16k x16k pixels) CCD camera built by the international consortium of the same name.

The VST is fruit of a joint venture between ESO and the Capodimonte Astronomical Observatory (OAC) of Naples, now research centre of the newly established Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).


The Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, when available in late 2007, will be a 4m class wide field survey telescope for the southern hemisphere, equipped with a near infrared camera (1.65 degree diameter field of view at VISTA's nominal pixel size) containing 67 million pixels of mean size 0.339 arcsec and available broad band filters at Z, Y, J, H, Ks and a narrow band filter at 1.18 micron. A wide field visible camera, if constructed, could also be used on VISTA.

The telescope has an azimuth-altitude mount, and quasi-Ritchey-Chretien optics with a fast f/1 primary mirror giving an f/3.25 focus to the instrument at Cassegrain. The instrument mounts to the rotator on the back of the primary mirror cell, and includes a wide-field corrector lens system (3 infrasil lenses), autoguider and active optics sensors. VISTA is located at ESO's Cerro Paranal Observatory in Chile.


The Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA, is an international collaboration to develop a world-class telescope array to study the universe from a site in the foothills of Chile's Andes Mountains. Each of ALMA's antenna dishes will measure 12 meter wide. The ALMA antennas will be movable. At its largest, the array will measure 14 km, and at its smallest, only 150 m. Its receivers will cover the range from 30 to 950 GHz. The ALMA correlator, a specialized computer that combines the information received by the antennas, will perform an astounding 16,000 million-million (1.6x1016) operations per second.

An additional, compact array of 7m and 12m diameter antennas is also foreseen. Construction of ALMA started in 2003 and will be completed in 2012; it will become incrementally operational from 2010 on.

For more information please read the the ALMA Project Web site.


ESO has been working together with its user community of European astronomers and astrophysicists to define the new giant telescope needed by the middle of the next decade. More than one hundred astronomers from all European countries have been involved throughout 2006, helping the ESO Project Offices to produce a novel concept, in which performance, cost, schedule and risk were carefully evaluated.

The present concept features as a baseline a telescope with a 42m diameter mirror, and is revolutionary. The site of the E-ELT is not yet fixed as studies are still underway with a plan to make a decision by 2008.

With a diameter of 42 m and its adaptive optics concept, the E-ELT will be more than one hundred times more sensitive than the present-day largest optical telescopes, such as the 10-m Keck telescopes or the 8.2-m VLT telescopes.

For more information please visit the E-ELT Project Web site and read the article "The European Extremely Large Telescope" in the ESO Messenger.