First contact, here we come. It's been a great month for space exploration: Just last week, NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, the first planet we've found so far that has Earth-like conditions to sustain alien life. And now, engineers at the European Southern Observatory in Chile are about to build a telescope with the power to directly observe planets outside the solar system — so that for the first time, we can spot any signs of alien life from right here at home. Called the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), the gigantic device will "look further back into the history of the universe than any other astronomical device in existence." It will be built atop a 10,000-ft mountain called Cerro Armazones, which has the perfect conditions to provide a clear, unobstructed view of the stars. "f you build your telescope where the atmosphere above you is completely dry, you will get the best possible views of the stars — and there is nowhere on Earth that has air drier than this place," said Cambridge astronomer Gerry Gilmore. "For good measure, the high-altitude winds blow in a smooth, laminar manner — like slabs of glass — so images of stars remain remarkably steady as well." Construction is set to begin on June 16, and will be completed around 2025. via PolicyMic.
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