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Commentary
7/21/2009
09:19 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Giant Telescope Will Redefine The Real End-To-End Visibility

A group seeking to build the largest and "most capable and advanced telescope ever constructed" hopes to open this stunning 30-meter window into the past by 2018 in Hawaii. Astronomers believe the massive telescope will let them "study light from the earliest stars and galaxies" and "test many of the fundamental laws of physics." And that's end-to-end visibility you can believe in.

A group seeking to build the largest and "most capable and advanced telescope ever constructed" hopes to open this stunning 30-meter window into the past by 2018 in Hawaii. Astronomers believe the massive telescope will let them "study light from the earliest stars and galaxies" and "test many of the fundamental laws of physics." And that's end-to-end visibility you can believe in.To correct for blurring of the Earth's atmosphere and deliver higher-resolution images than any telescope ever, the Thirty Meter Telescope will use a range of advanced technologies and engineering approaches, including precision control, segmented mirror design, and adaptive optics. The designers expect these new technologies will allow the Thirty Meter Telescope to deliver visual performance as precise as if it were located in space like the Hubble Telescope - but without the restrictions such a location invariable carries with it.

The Hawaiian site - at Mauna Kea - won out in competition with four other possible locations that were analyzed against a set of exacting criteria, the Thirty Meter Telescope team said:

To ensure that the site chosen for TMT would enable the telescope to achieve its full potential, a global satellite survey was conducted, from which five outstanding candidate sites were chosen for further ground-based studies of atmospheric stability, wind patterns, temperature variation, and other meteorological characteristics that would affect the performance of the telescope.

Based on these results and extensive studies, Mauna Kea and Cerro Armazones [in Chile] were selected in May 2008 for further evaluation and environmental, financial, and cultural impact studies. The TMT board used the results from these meticulous research campaigns to help guide the final site-selection process.

And if you're feeling weary from months of effort to gain some traction in collaborative efforts with a broad range of partners, just take a look at the motley crew of cats that the Thirty Meter Telescope team had to herd together to make this happen (taken from the group's press release):

The TMT project is an international partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and ACURA, an organization of Canadian universities. The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) joined TMT as a Collaborating Institution in 2008.

"The selection of Hawai'i as the site for the Thirty Meter Telescope will greatly strengthen international cooperation in astronomy. The synergy between TMT and the highly successful Subaru Telescope already on Mauna Kea will lead to many further research breakthroughs," said Professor Masanori Iye, the Extremely Large Telescope Project Director of the NAOJ."

Of the $377 million that has been raised to date for early-stage work, $250 million comes from a foundation created by Intel founder Gordon Moore, called the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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