Spain seeks guarantees to join Chile telescope project

27th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain, which lost out to Chile in its bid to host the largest telescope ever built, warned Tuesday it will demand "economic guarantees" before it contributes to the financing of the project.

"Before deciding on our participation in the construction of the telescope in Chile, we demand complete economic guarantees on the viability of its construction," Science and Innovation Minister Cristina Garmendia said.

Chile on Monday won the right to host the largest telescope ever built, dubbed "the world's biggest eye on the sky" by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is behind the project.

The other main contender site for the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), due to begin operation in 2018, was La Palma, one of Spain's Canary Islands off western Africa.

Garmendia said that Spain's bid had emphasised that the government would provide 300 million euros in public funds for the 1.3-billion-dollar (970-million-euro) project which would help "guarantee the construction from an economic point of view."

Chile's northern Atacama desert region, where the ELT will be based, has cloud-free skies 320 nights a year, extremely low humidity and is also free of the storms that lash the Canary Islands.

In addition, the ESO's Paranal observatory means that much of the ground infrastructure is already in place.

ESO hopes that, when complete, the giant telescope will "address many of the most pressing unsolved questions in astronomy."

© 2010 AFP

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