By Rebecca Morelle
The top of a 3,000m-high (10,000ft) mountain in Chile has been blown up to make way for the world’s largest optical and infrared telescope.
A million tonnes of rock were blasted in order to create a level surface on which to build the European-Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
At its heart will lie a mirror that is half the size of a football pitch.
This will allow astronomers to look further into space and in more detail than ever before.
The explosion in Cerro Armazones in northern Chile took place just after 1840 BST and was streamed live by the European Southern Observatory.
Dr Aprajita Verma, deputy project scientist for the E-ELT’s UK team at the University of Oxford, said: “The telescope is a really huge step in terms of its scale – it’s so much bigger than anything else.
“It will give us a deeper and finer view of the Universe.”
Now the mountaintop has been levelled, the construction of the E-ELT will begin. It is expected to take less than 10 years.
The site, in the middle of the Atacama desert – and close to the Very Large Telescope – has been chosen because of its near-perfect observing conditions: for most of the year, the sky is cloudless.
The aridity there also means there is little water vapour to cloud its view of space.
One of the most challenging aspects will be to create and install the telescope’s 39m-wide (130ft) primary mirror.