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Provence to host giant telescope

A telescope with mirror array covering a kilometer will study planets in other solar systems and the surfaces of stars

SCIENTISTS are to build the world’s biggest optical telescope in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

The installation – made up of thousands of 25cm mirrors over 0.5-1km – is expected to enable astronomers to study planets outside our solar system, the regions of space near the black hole in the centre of the galaxy and surface details of nearby stars.

The mirrors will be adjusted to the micron (thousandth of a millimeter) and will point towards a camera suspended from a helium balloon.

Astronomer Hervé Le Coroller, in charge of the project, told France Soir: “The world’s biggest telescopes, like in Chile or Hawaii, have mirrors about 10m across and show most stars as dots.”

The technical expert for the project, engineer Julien Dejonghe, said: “One could even imagine a space version of this, which would enable us to see the surfaces of planets outside the solar system and, why not, seas, continents and even traces of lives.”

Around a dozen sites are under consideration for building the telescope.

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