Scientists to Search for Earth-Like Planets with World's Largest Telescope

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It's been an exciting week for space exploration. Following news that NASA's Orion spacecraft launch was a success, the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) council announced that plans to build the world's largest telescope -- called the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) -- have been officially approved.

The telescope will be constructed at the top of Cerro Armazones, a mountain in Chile's Atacama Desert, which also home to the Cerro Armazones Observatory. The contracts for the work come to nearly $2.5 million.

Related: NASA Takes a Step Toward Mars With Test Launch

The E-ELT is an aperture optical and infrared telescope with a surface of 128 feet (39 meters). ESO Director-General Tim de Zeeuw explained in a statement that the telescope's light-collecting surface will be able to help identify star populations in galaxies that are close to ours and planets that are similar in mass to Earth.  

The plans were approved in 2012, though the building could only begin when 90 percent of the funding came through, according to Space.com. The project is estimated to be completed in 2024, with "phase one" of the construction -- the telescope's main structure and dome -- starting in 2015. 

Related: Meet the Entrepreneurs at the Forefront of the Space Race

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