Chilean mountaintop blasted for giant telescope

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Astronomers in Chile blasted away the top of a mountain Thursday during a ceremony to mark the start of work on what they say will be the world's largest optical telescope.

The 9,800-foot (3,000 meter) Cerro Armazones mountain is to be the home of the European Extremely Large Telescope. The blast to level the summit loosened about 5,000 cubic meters of rock in preparation for construction.

The ceremony was presided over by officials at the European Southern Observatory in northern Chile. The telescope will have a 128-foot (39-meter) mirror, and the astronomers are calling it "the world's biggest eye on the sky." They say it will help advance the study of planets around other stars, supermassive black holes and "the exploration of completely unknown realms of the Universe."

Officials expect the telescope to be completed by 2024.

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