Monday, November 02, 2009

 The Thirty-Meter Telescope is Coming in 2018

Near Pasadena, California, a team of scientists, engineers, and project specialist are busily planning and designing what will become, upon completion, the most advanced and powerful optical telescope on Earth. Their project is the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT), and it will enable astronomers to study objects in our solar system, stars systems elsewhere in or Milky Way Galaxy, neighboring galaxies, and forming galaxies at the very edge of the observable Universe—in essence, looking back to the beginnings of the observable Universe.

Begun in June 2003, the nonprofit TMT Observatories Corporation has as its partners, the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), the University of California (UC), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). While these are the current partners, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) was also a partner at the early phase.

The TMT project is the result of three earlier large-telescope projects that were merged: the California Extremely Large Telescope (CELT), which was a partnership between Caltech and UC; the Very Large Optical Telescope (VLOT), led by ACURA; and the Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope (GSMT), which was a partnership between the National Optical Astronomical Observatory (NOAO) and the Gemini Observatory.

The TMT will integrate the latest innovations in precision control, segmented mirror design, and adaptive optics to correct for the blurring effect of Earth’s atmosphere, enabling the TMT to study the Universe as clearly as if the telescope were in space. The TMT builds on the success of the twin Keck telescopes, using a 30-meter primary mirror composed of 492 segments. This will give TMT nine times the collecting area of today’s largest optical telescopes.

On July 21, after extensive studies, the TMT Observatories Corporation announced that the slope of the volcano Mauna Kea, Hawaii, had been selected as the site for the TMT. Construction is expected to begin October 2011. If all goes on schedule, the TMT will see first light in 2018. For more on the TMT and its partners, check out this link:

Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)


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