May 07 2014 Posted: 10:52 IST

The workshop coincides with the design of the €1bn European Southern Observatory super-telescope; with a 39m mirror, it is ten times bigger than the world’s largest telescope today

NUI Galway will host an international workshop on the development of large astronomical telescopes for the next decade. Such telescopes will enable astronomers to see faint objects such as the first galaxies, formed just after the big bang, and also to see planets similar to Earth, near other stars.

The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) with a 39m diameter mirror is currently being designed by the European Southern Observatory. Discussions about the role Ireland could play in this ambitious project are taking place with the Government.

Professor Andy Shearer of NUI Galway said “This international workshop acknowledges the role astronomers from NUI Galway have played in developing the most advanced astronomical instrumentation. It also recognises the potential Irish industry has for participating in this massive international project. At the moment there is a debate about Ireland's membership of the European Southern Observatory. As members, Irish scientists and Irish industry would be able to take part in, and bid for,  some of the most technologically challenging projects in the world."

The workshop “Speed and Sensitivity: Expanding Astronomical Horizons with ELTs” http://astro.nuigalway.ie/speedandsensitivity/  will be held in NUI Galway from May 13th to 16th. Astronomers in the Centre for Astronomy NUI Galway are very pleased to have been chosen to host the workshop to discuss what science and what instruments will be needed by the ELT over the next decade.

The largest telescope in use today uses a mirror 11 metres across - the bigger the mirror the fainter and further a telescope can ‘see’. Astronomers require bigger telescopes to see fainter objects in the universe.

The European Southern Observatory is currently designing a telescope, with a 39m mirror, known as the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). This billion euro project will become the most powerful astronomical facility in the world. It will enable astronomers to see faint objects such as the first galaxies which formed just after the big bang and planets like the earth around other stars.

Speed and Sensitivity is sponsored by the European Union through its Opticon [http://www.astro-opticon.org/] project and through Science Foundation Ireland. An important part of the workshop will be a discussion to involve industry in developing new instruments for the telescopes. Ireland’s photonics industry will be well-place to benefit from this project.

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