Issue 1 • June, 2006
Thirty Meter Telescope

TMT’s Inaugural Newscast

With the successful completion of our project's Conceptual Design Review, TMT has a science vision, technical requirements, a thoroughly reviewed design and a powerful team carrying our work forward. We want you to know more about what is developing in TMT. While we have had a public web site for some time, we are confident that you will find our monthly newscast of TMT happenings a useful way to keep informed. Each newscast will cover a nugget of science, of technology, a timely focus on a project happening, and my own report of what is important that month. Our partner institutions will keep us all up to date on more local news. We will include interviews with project members, some in podcast or videocast formats. We will also describe highlights of developments with our valuable industrial partners. Stay tuned for a monthly glimpse of this exciting project, TMT.

Gary Sanders, TMT Project Manager

Focus on: Glass

TMT needs a lot of glass. Our primary mirror consists of 738 hexagons of glass, 1.2 meters across at the widest point (about 48" for those who are more comfortable with English units) and 40 mm thick (that is close to 1 9/16" thick). The total area is about 700 square meters (about 1.5 basketball courts). This is a lot of glass.

It is not ordinary glass. This glass is "zero-expansion glass". This means that as the temperature changes, the glass pieces do not change dimensions. This is very important for TMT as our mirrors must be polished into very precise shapes and the gaps between the hexagonal segments must be very small so as to properly collect all of the light even if the telescope is pointed away from zenith (straight up) where gravity will make everything sag a tiny bit.

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Project Manager's Corner: Coming Out

TMT is "coming out." With this inaugural TMT Newscast, we move from informing you about various goings-on in the project by pulling you to our Web site to what is known as "push." We are starting to push some content out to an interested community. We are coming out.

We have provided a lot of information to date. I, myself, have written a series of articles covering the formation of the project, its technology, its technical progress and our recent design review.

What is new is that now we have a design that has been thoroughly reviewed, and we have come out publicly with many details and have lots to describe. We want you to be aware of the progress and developments. So, unless you opt out, you will receive regular updates on TMT.

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Science Nugget—Planet Hunting With the TMT: MIRES and NIRES

How common are planetary systems like our own? How frequently are the conditions for life present in such systems? Astronomers hope to answer—or come close to answering—these two fundamental questions during the next twenty years, using a variety of space—and ground-based observatories, of which TMT is an essential component.

In order to address the two questions, we need to answer a series of simpler questions:

  • What determines the mass of a star?
  • How and when do planetary systems form?
  • What forms can planetary systems take?
  • How frequently do terrestrial planets similar to Earth form and survive?
  • How might the conditions for life be established in planetary systems, in particular on terrestrial planets?

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TMT Instruments: Powerful New Eyes to Explore the Universe with TMT

What kind of scientific instruments does one need to take full advantage of a 30-meter telescope's ability to reach across the vastness of space and time?

To answer this question, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project recently completed a round of studies that involved nearly 200 scientists and engineers at 46 U.S., Canadian and French institutions. The instrument concepts that emerged from these studies were proven to be feasible even though they break major new ground in terms of physical size and complexity.

Astronomical instruments have two basic observing modes: imaging and spectroscopy. These modes capture light from astrophysical objects at different angular resolutions (how well two sources on the sky can be separated) and spectral resolutions (how well two wavelengths Δλ apart can be separated at an observing wavelength λ). The spectral resolution is defined as λ/Δλ (the "R parameter"). The angular resolution of some instruments is limited by the blurring effect (known as "seeing") from atmospheric turbulence above the observatory, while others can make use of the full resolution of a giant telescope aperture with the help of adaptive optics.

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Q&A with Corinne Boyer

Corinne Boyer is a Senior Adaptive Optics Software Engineer for the Thirty Meter Telescope project. She spoke recently with Warren Skidmore to discuss the integral role that adaptive optics (AO) technology will play in the scientific productivity of the TMT.

Q. What educational and career path did you follow up until you started working in the field of adaptive optics?

I completed my engineering school and master degrees in servo control in 1986 with an internship at a research laboratory in France called "Les Laboratoires de Marcoussis." The subject of my internship was to implement the servo transfer function of an astronomical AO system, and to optimize the transfer function based on the AO parameters, such as the number of actuators and the influence diameter. At the end of my six-month internship, my director of study and I published in a paper on the results in Applied Optics, which is still used as a reference. Since this time, I have worked in the field of AO.

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Partner Office News

AURA-NIO

Larry Daggert, program manager for the NOAO New Initiatives Office (NIO), retired on June 2 after more than 19 years of service in key engineering posts at the U.S. national observatory. Larry started at NOAO in February 1987 as Manager of Engineering and Technical Services (ETS). He spent the next 16 years working in ETS on projects such as the SQIID infrared camera, the Cryogenic Optical Bench, and the Phoenix and GNIRS spectrographs

Larry helped set up the SOAR 4.1-meter telescope office, and consulted with many departments throughout NOAO as well as the Gemini Observatory. Just before his role with the NIO (which is responsible for the observatory's work on TMT), he spent two years as manager of NOAO’s engineering efforts on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project. Best wishes, Larry!

The AURA New Initiatives Office has a newly redesigned and expanded Web site, with a variety of information on the Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope and other extremely large telescope projects. See http://www.aura-nio.noao.edu

Industry News: Ottawa starstruck by TMT

On May 4, 2006, every seat was filled at the prestigious National Press Club in Ottawa, Canada's capital. Elected officials, government leaders, and scientists gathered to hear about astronomy.

AMEC’s David Halliday, Vice President and Special Projects Director, addressed this audience of luminaries. His "Newsmaker Breakfast" speech focused on how academia, government, and industry have formed a unique partnership that is accelerating advances in astronomy. However, one project stole the show: the Thirty Meter Telescope.

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TMT "In The News"

Recent articles mentioning TMT in the popular media:

Previous Issues

View the TMT Newscast Archive.

You have received this issue of the TMT Newscast because of your previous professional contact with the Thirty Meter Telescope Project, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) Inc., the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, or the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA).

TMT is supported in the United States by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the US National Science Foundation. Canadian funding is provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, the National Research Council of Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund.

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The TMT Newscast is a free email publication of the Thirty Meter Telescope project. It is for informational purposes only, and the information is subject to change without notice.

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