Issue 11 • May/June, 2007
Thirty Meter Telescope

Project Manager's Corner: Exploring TMT in Chile
  Gary Sanders

I have written several times in this column about our campaign to evaluate and select the site for TMT. (Focus On... Site Testing, My Summer Vacation in February, PM Corner, Looking Up). I have described visits to Hawaii and to Chile. These articles included travelogues, meetings with officials, descriptions of scientific tests of the quality of "seeing", and discussions of the ceremonial importance to local communities of some of the mountains contemplated by TMT.

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Science Nugget—Finding Habitable Earth-like Worlds Around Nearby Stars
  Steve Vogt, UCO/Lick Observatory

Over 200 planets have now been detected around nearby stars by using meter/second precision radial velocity observations from optical spectroscopy to sense the tugging of the planet on its host star. Any star hosting a planet wobbles in velocity, alternately being pulled first towards and then away from us by the orbiting planet, in strict Keplerian periodicity. The period and size of that wobble reveals the unseen planets' mass and as well as the size and shape of its orbit. The orbit size and brightness and temperature of the star are then easily combined to yield the equilibrium temperature of that planet.

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Technology Nugget—Collaboration, Competition, or "Collabortition"?
  Mark Sirota, TMT Telescope Controls Group Leader

Astronomy is purely an observational science and as a result places high value on first discovery. Although peer confirmation is essential to all scientific discoveries; the thrill, recognition, and opportunity that a new discovery brings inevitably goes to those who are first. On the other hand astronomy is an academic pursuit placing great value on collaboration and the sharing of knowledge. So what is the manifestation of an environment where competition to be first and collaboration and sharing of knowledge are both the norm? Maybe we should call it a "collabortition".

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Project News

On 11 May 2007, Dr. Stephen Strom, one of the founding pioneers in the TMT partnership, retired officially from AURA/NOAO.

From the beginning of TMT, Steve played several key roles including acting Observatory Scientist, Science Advisory Committee (SAC) member for AURA, SAC chairperson and wise advisor in a broad range of issues. We wish Steve all the best during his "retirement" and look forward to hearing from him for many years to come.

Q & A with Mark Sirota

Mark SirotaDownload Mark Sirota Interview
[12:43 min. 11.6 MB MP3]

Mark Sirota is the Telescope Controls Group Leader for the TMT project; he joined the project in March of 2005. Mark has almost 20 years of ground based astronomy experience; prior to TMT he served in engineering and senior management positions with the W. M. Keck observatory and the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer. Mark brings a unique perspective to the TMT team having both project and operations experience.

Mark was recently interviewed by Warren Skidmore, the TMT Site Testing Scientist.

Focus On—Time Allocation
  David Silva, TMT Observatory Scientist

The Universe is a big place with lots of exciting neighborhoods. For every night at the TMT, there will be 5 or more teams who want to explore those neighborhoods. Deciding which teams get to use TMT is called time allocation and scheduling.

For TMT, we expect this process to begin within each of the partner communities. The amount of time available to each partner will be roughly proportional to their financial contribution to the TMT construction and operations budgets. Each community is likely to have different scientific priorities and models for scientific exploration. It is possible that one partner may wish to allocate all their time to one big project, spanning tens or hundreds of nights. Such a large project may involve the participation of tens of astronomers. A different partner may decide to award one night each to many different projects. Each project may involve a few astronomers or many astronomers. Given these differences, each partner is likely to have a slightly different process to request, received, and collect observing proposals – descriptions of science ideas and desired observations.

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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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