Issue 14 • November/December, 2007
Thirty Meter Telescope

From all of us at TMT, best wishes for a very joyous holiday season and a terrific 2008!

Project Manager's Corner: Lead Commitments Made to TMT Construction
 
 Gary H. Sanders, TMT Project Manager

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has announced a lead commitment of $200 million to the construction of TMT. The gift is split evenly between Caltech and the University of California, and these institutions have pledged to provide funds to raise the commitment to $300 million. This extraordinary gift is chronicled in a press release that continues this Newscast article. The TMT project team expresses its heartfelt thanks to the Moore Foundation and to Caltech and UC. Buoyed by this wonderful milestone, the team will now press on to complete our design and development (see our September Newscast which announces the prior Moore gift for completing the design development) and to plan the initiation of construction of the first telescope in the next generation of optical/infrared telescopes, TMT.

PASADENA, Calif — The California Institute of Technology and the University of California have received a $200 million commitment over nine years from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation toward the further development and construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT). Funding under this commitment will be shared equally between the two universities, with matching gifts from the two institutions expected to bring the total to $300 million. When built, TMT will be the largest telescope in the world.

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TMT at the Austin AAS Meeting

Exciting things are happening at the TMT project as you can see from the articles in this Newscast.  To hear more about our latest news, or to talk to TMT partnership scientists, visit us at the American Astronomical Society meeting on 5 – 10 January 2008 in Austin, TX. You can ask questions, see our latest designs, and pick up our new brochure. See you in Austin!

TMT NFIRAOS Review
  Glen Herriot

The TMT NFIRAOS team was pleased by the interest and attendance at the first interim review of NFIRAOS held all day on December 5, 2007, at the one-third point of the Preliminary Design phase for NFIRAOS, the facility Adaptive Optics system for the TMT. Members of the TMT AO group together with the NFIRAOS design team from the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, BC, Canada, presented and discussed the design and its status. The Preliminary Design phase of NFIRAOS, and this first interim review in particular, concentrates on performance modeling, and refining NIFRAOS' specifications and interfaces, especially those that affect instruments and the telescope structure. This was an informal review without an invited review panel, and we welcomed all members of the TMT community together with guests from the national optical observatories of the US and Japan. Interest was high, as was apparent by the seven video connections to the conference room at the TMT project office in Pasadena. The audience provided valuable suggestions, and we did not identify any show-stoppers.

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Focus On—Chile, Window to the Universe
  Gary H Sanders and Angel Otarola

Astronomy has two major clusters of observatories, one in Hawaii on Mauna Kea and Haleakala, and another in Northern Chile. The remarkable skies in these two locations are global resources for astronomy. 13 observatories lie on Mauna Kea alone. TMT is studying sites in both Hawaii and in Chile and we have described our campaign several times in these pages. The TMT Board plan is to make a final selection in 2008. As part of building the basis for this decision, we have been learning as much as we can about these locations beyond our atmospheric measurements. Español

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Science Nugget—Exploring the Epoch of Galaxy Formation in "3-D"
  Chuck Steidel, TMT Science Advisory Committee Chair

One of the most exciting possibilities enabled by the light-gathering power of TMT is to achieve "tomographic" observations of the distribution of gas both inside and outside of galaxies in the young universe. At early times, most of the normal matter in the universe- mostly in the form of gas- was actually outside of galaxies, tracing what we believe is a "web-like" structure formed by the distribution of dark matter. Galaxies formed where the "cosmic web" is densest, where filamentary structures intersect. Fresh hydrogen gas from the "intergalactic medium" (IGM) was being rapidly accreted by forming galaxies, providing fresh fuel for the rapid star formation taking place in the densest regions near the centers of galaxies. At the same time, the vast amounts of energy produced by massive star formation and the subsequent supernova explosions, as well as by accretion of material onto super-massive black holes developing at the centers of the galaxies, has a profound (but highly uncertain) effect on the evolution of individual galaxies. This "feedback" of energy into the young galactic systems almost certainly drove large quantities of heavy elements (formed in the most massive young stars and their supernovae) into the IGM, limited the efficiency with which stars could form, and somehow provided a natural thermostat which determined the maximum mass a single galaxy could attain. How these energetic processes worked to shape the universe of galaxies is perhaps the largest unsolved problem in understanding the formation of galaxies. We believe that the most rapid period of galaxy growth occurred at redshifts of z~2-4, when the universe was only 10-20% of its current age (10-12 billion years ago).

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Q & A with Paul Gillett

Paul Gillett is the TMT acting Facilities Manager. He previously worked on the Gemini South Observatory. He was interviewed in the TMT office by Warren Skidmore.

Download Interview
[12:39 min. 12.77 MB MP3]

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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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