Construction has begun on the world’s largest optical telescope, a crucial component of which is being built by scientists from Oxford University.

Situated in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will provide images of the universe in unprecedented detail thanks to the HARMONI spectrograph, an instrument designed and built by Oxford scientists.

HARMONI is a fine-tuned instrument designed to take 4000 images simultaneously, each in a slightly different colour. The combination of a large number of images taken in both the visible and near infra-red spectrum will allow the imaging of planets, stars, and galaxies in ground-breaking detail.

Niranjan Thatte, Principal Investigator for HARMONI and Professor of Astrophysics at Oxford’s Department of Physics, told Cherwell: “For me, the E-ELT represents a big leap forward in capability, and that means that we will use it to find many interesting things about the universe that we have no knowledge of today.

“It is the element of ‘exploring the unknown’ that most excites me about the E-ELT. Equally, the E-ELT will be an engineering feat, and its sheer size and light grasp will dwarf all other telescopes we have built to date.”