Thirty Meter Telescope

Astronomy's next generation observatory.

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Canada Becomes a Full Member of the Thirty Meter Telescope Project


Canada is the most recent nation to affirm its commitment to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and was voted in as a full member of the project by the TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Directors at a recent board meeting. Canada joins California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the science institutions of China, India, and Japan as partners in the TMT project. TIO is the nonprofit limited liability company founded in May 2014 to carry out the construction and operation phases of the TMT project.

The TMT project is working toward building a powerful, next-generation astronomical observatory at Maunakea in Hawaii, slated to see ‘first light’ in the 2020s, and the success of the project is reliant upon the continued collaborative efforts from scientific leaders and donors from those other major nations. (‘First light’ is defined as the first use of a telescope to take an astronomical image after it has been constructed.)

Last month, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, alongside the federal Industry Minister James Moore, announced that Canada will provide CAD$243.5 million toward the project over the next decade. Canada will build the telescope enclosure and the cutting-edge adaptive optics system.

“Canada is proud to be an official partner in this revolutionary facility that has the potential to transform our understanding of the universe,” said Minister Moore. “It is a testament to the leadership and expertise of our space industry that Canada will build the telescope’s precision-steel enclosure and provide cutting-edge optics technologies. We look forward to working with our international partners in conducting ground-breaking space research.”

When completed, the telescope’s large aperture will collect more light, allowing international astronomers to observe fainter objects, including planets that orbit stars outside our own solar system, and distant stars that formed some 13 billion light years away.

“Canada’s investment and commitment to our project reconfirms the bright future of this great scientific endeavor,” said Henry Yang, Chair of the TIO Board and Chancellor of the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We are realizing a bold vision and have put tremendous effort into this project, which will give us deeper insight into the early years of the universe and a better world for all of us to share and appreciate.”

In addition to Canada’s role in TMT’s construction, other international partners are moving ahead on various other aspects of the project. In India, fabrication of the mirror support system continues. In China, partners are designing the telescope’s fully articulated main science steering mirror system and developing the laser guide star system. In Japan, over 60 special zero thermal-expansion glass mirror blanks for the main mirror have been produced and the telescope structure is being designed in detail. In California, the primary mirror and mirror control system is also in final design. Major funding has been provided by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation.