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‘Bigger is better’ for researchers and engineers from three UK institutions who are helping to develop the world’s largest ground-based telescope to dramatically improve our view of the Universe.

For 400 years scientists have built ever-bigger telescopes to study space. The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be a ground-based optical/infra-red telescope with a 42m diameter mirror larger than all the current ground-based telescopes combined. This huge mirror will be built from 984 hexagonal segments. It will use Adaptive Optics to compensate for blurring of images caused by the Earth’s atmosphere, capturing images up to 10 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope. The giant telescope will allow us to study Earth-like planets orbiting stars outside our solar system.

“The E-ELT will revolutionise astronomy, allowing us to study the Universe in great detail, from planetary systems around nearby stars, to the most distant galaxies formed when the Universe was only a tenth of its current age,” says Professor Colin Cunningham from The UK Astronomy Technology Centre of the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Visitors to the exhibit will view a 3D video of the huge telescope, see how adaptive optics sharpen the twinkling image of distant stars and galaxies, and find out how to get involved in the “Get the Hex” campaign.

Exhibited by the UK Astronomy Technology Centre of the Science and Technology Facilities Council; University of Durham; University of Oxford; The European Southern Observatory.

See all exhibits from 2010