First contact, here we come.

It's been a great month for space exploration: Just last week, NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, the first planet we've found so far that has Earth-like conditions to sustain alien life. And now, engineers at the European Southern Observatory in Chile are about to build a telescope with the power to directly observe planets outside the solar system — so that for the first time, we can spot any signs of alien life from right here at home.

Called the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), the gigantic device will "look further back into the history of the universe than any other astronomical device in existence." It will be built atop a 10,000-ft mountain called Cerro Armazones, which has the perfect conditions to provide a clear, unobstructed view of the stars.

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