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Mountaintop Blast To Make Room For European Extremely Large Telescope

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An astronomy organization will blast away the top of a mountain to make room for a giant telescope today (June 19), and you can watch the blast live online.

Officials with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) — a collaboration of 15 different countries — are planning to build the largest optical/near-infrared telescope in the world atop a mountain in Chile. ESO is expected to blast away the top of Cerro Armazones, where the huge European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will sit sometime in the future. The organization will host a webcast featuring the mountain blast on Thursday (June 19) from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT (1630 to 1830 GMT), and you can watch it live on Space.com.

"Extremely large telescopes are considered worldwide as one of the highest priorities in ground-based astronomy," ESO officials said in a statement. "They will vastly advance astrophysical knowledge, allowing detailed studies of subjects including planets around other stars, the first objects in the universe, supermassive black holes, and the nature and distribution of the dark matter and dark energy which dominate the universe."

The ground-based telescope will come equipped with a 128-foot (39 meters) mirror, and has been called "the world's biggest eye on the sky" by ESO.

european extremely large telescopeThe European-Extremely Large Telescope stands to the left next to the Very Large Telescope and the Statue of Liberty on the right for size comparison.

The E-ELT is designed to find and image Earth-like alien planets in the habitable zones of their stars, gather more data about mysterious dark matter and dark energy and observe the universe's first stars and galaxies, ESO officials have said. The telescope is expected to begin functioning sometime in the next decade.

"On top of this, astronomers are also planning for the unexpected — new and unforeseeable questions will surely arise from the new discoveries made with the E-ELT," ESO officials said in a statement.

You can participate in the mountain-blast webcast by joining in on Twitter, asking questions with the hashtag #EELTblast. ESO officials ask that participants ask questions in English.

Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebookand Google+. Original article on Space.com.

Copyright 2014 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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