World's largest telescope to be built in Chile

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SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The world’s largest telescope will be built in Chile’s northern desert at a cost over $1 billion, the European Southern Observatory said on Monday, and will set its sights on discovering other worlds like our own.

The 42-meter European Extremely Large Telescope will watch the skies for exoplanets, or planets around stars, as well as seek to unravel the mystery of dark matter and dark energy.

The telescope will be built at 3,060 meters (10,040 feet) above sea level on a mountain in Chile’s northern, mine rich Atacama desert, which is favored for major telescopes because of low levels of water vapor and clear night skies.

“The size will allow us to see basically Earth-like planets,” said Lars Lindberg Christensen, head of the observatory’s education and public outreach department in Garching, Germany.

“It will be able to test fundamental physics to a degree never before possible,” he added. “We are going to study black holes, galaxies and dark matter and dark energy, which are the two completely unknown composites or parts of the universe.”

The telescope is set to enter operations in 2018.

Reporting by Antonio de la Jara and Simon Gardner, Editing by Jackie Frank