The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will be unsurpassed for more than a generation. With a diameter of 39m and a greater collecting area than all current large telescopes combined, its sensitivity and spatial resolution will dwarf those of existing facilities in the visible and infrared. The ELT is now under construction in northern Chile by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and, as a result of past investment by STFC, the UK is in a leading position in instrument development for this ~1bn Euro project.
The vast step forward in both collecting area and angular resolution from the 39m diameter ELT will be transformative for nearly every aspect of contemporary astronomy, from searches of bio-markers in nearby exoplanets out to detection of the most distant galaxies at the edge of the observable Universe. Even more exciting is the prospect of discoveries and new science areas opened-up by the ELT that are simply beyond our current understanding and predictions.
The UK ATC has led the UK ELT Programme for over a decade, coordinating UK roles in instrument development for this hugely exciting facility. The UK Programme includes leadership of the HARMONI instrument, the first-light spectrograph for the ELT, and has a smaller role in the METIS
, the mid-infrared imager/spectrograph. The UK is also a key partner in plans for the next instruments, HIRES and MOSAIC. The UK ATC has technical roles in each four of these, as discussed in the individual pages to the right.