Today’s breathtaking pace of astronomical discovery is driven by cutting-edge observing capabilities accessible by a diverse scientific community. To continue this rapid pace and explore the most fundamental mysteries of our Universe, we must continue to bring new state-of-the art facilities into play. Advances in telescope construction and adaptive optics make the next generation of extremely large telescopes both scientifically compelling and technically achievable. These new telescopes will provide a generational improvement in capability over the best and largest telescopes available today. Huge advances in light-gathering power and resolution will allow astronomers to answer intriguing questions that data from existing telescopes can help pose, but not resolve.
Scientists at any institution in the US will be able to use the US Extremely Large Telescope system to observe objects anywhere in the sky to explore topics ranging from the search for life beyond Earth to the nature of dark matter and dark energy. With their complementary designs, locations, and diverse instrument suites, these two next-generation telescopes will offer great synergy with each other and current and future facilities in space and on the ground.
The roughly 50% sky overlap between the telescopes will facilitate observations of the most interesting objects in the sky with both observatories. Being situated in substantially different time zones on the globe will allow the two telescopes to observe astronomical phenomena for longer spans of time — which is important for studying rapidly changing objects. The US-ELTP will provide the most powerful available capabilities to study objects anywhere in the sky for roughly 16 hours of every day on Earth.