ESOcast 48: Building Big

Eighth and final special 50th anniversary episode

2 October 2012

Leading up to ESO’s 50th anniversary in October 2012, we are releasing eight special ESOcasts, each a chapter from the movie Europe to the Stars — ESO’s First 50 Years of Exploring the Southern Sky.

The eighth and final episode of this series relates how ESO — based on experience gathered over the past fifty years as the most powerful observatory in history — is going to satisfy the eternal longing of astronomers: the construction of even bigger telescopes.

The first of ESO’s next generation telescopes is almost finished on the Chajnantor Plateau. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter array (ALMA), a joint project of Europe, North America and Asia, will be composed of 66 high-precision antennas when it becomes fully operational in 2013. Acting together as a giant telescope, ALMA will reveal the finest details of the cool Universe, spotting the birth of the first galaxies and peeking inside the dusty clouds of molecular gas — stellar nurseries where new stars and planets are born.

While ALMA is nearly completed and already producing outstanding results, ESO’s crowning jewel is still a few years away. The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be the world’s biggest eye on the sky. Sporting a 39-metre main mirror, the E-ELT will dwarf every telescope that preceded it. The E-ELT will be a powerful tool to help to find life elsewhere in the Universe, by looking for biosignatures on the atmospheres of Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars. The E-ELT will also be able to capture light from very faint and distant objects, revealing much about the early history of the Universe, when stars first began to shine.

Watch this episode to discover more about ESO’s next generation of telescopes that will help in the quest to solve the biggest mysteries of the Universe.

More Information

The ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO — the European Southern Observatory.

Subscribe to our video podcast now to keep up with the latest news from ESO: the ESOcast is available via iTunes in HD and SD. It’s also available on YouTubeVimeo and is offered for download in several formats including HD.




Directed by: Lars Lindberg Christensen
Art Direction, Production Design: Martin Kornmesser
Producer: Herbert Zodet
Written by: Govert Schilling
3D animations and graphics: Martin Kornmesser & Luis Calçada
Editing: Martin Kornmesser
Cinematography: Herbert Zodet & Peter Rixner
Sound engineer: Cristian Larrea
Narration Mastering: Peter Rixner
Host & Lead Scientist: Dr J (Dr Joe Liske, ESO)
Narration: Sara Mendes da Costa
Soundtrack & Sound Effects: movetwo — Axel Kornmesser & Markus Löffler
Footage and photos: ESO, Stéphane Guisard (, Christoph Malin (, Babak Tafreshi/TWAN, A. Santerne, Martin Kornmesser, ESO Historical Picture Archive: J. Dommaget/J. Boulon/J. Doornenbal/W. Schlosser/F.K. Edmondson/A. Blaauw/Rademakers/R. Holder, Mineworks, Daniel Crouch/Rare Books (, Getty Images, Royal Astronomical Society/Science Photo Library, Jay M. Pasachoff, Chris de Coning,/South African Library/Warner-Madear, Africana Museum/Warner, Leiden University, G. Brammer and Nick Risinger (
Technical support: Lars Holm Nielsen and Raquel Yumi Shida
DVD Authoring: Andre Roquette
Proof reading: Anne Rhodes
Executive producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen

About the Announcement



Screenshot of ESOcast 48
Screenshot of ESOcast 48


ESOcast 48: Building Big — Special 50th anniversary episode #8
ESOcast 48: Building Big — Special 50th anniversary episode #8