Issue 1 • June, 2006
Thirty Meter Telescope

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.

The resulting echo of the presentation was loud. News stories about TMT appeared across Canada on CBC Television, in newspapers such as the Toronto Star, over the air on radio stations like KPCC Southern California Public Radio, and even across the Atlantic in England’s press. In Canada alone, there have been over 83 news reports, which have reached an audience of 4,224,365 readers, viewers, and listeners.

The Manchester Evening News reported that "Plans to build the world's biggest telescope have been unveiled" and that "the mammoth TMT will help scientists unravel cosmic mysteries."

The speech by Halliday occurred during the same week that the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy conducted a series of meetings with Canadian federal government officials about Canada’s Long Range Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Many people in the Canadian government and general public are fascinated with this ambitious, gigantic project. And it is no wonder.

Halliday explained that AMEC has been working on TMT for two years and is currently working on the preliminary design for the telescope’s internal and external structure, which promises to look unlike any other observatory.

The company developed the concept for the structure of the telescope. Its 2,000-ton platform, loaded with mirrors and optical equipment, must pivot quickly to various positions yet stop accurately and lock onto precise points in the sky.

How do you put an enclosure over a football field-sized telescope? The obvious answer is to build an observatory the size of a football stadium. The TMT project has selected an innovative ‘calotte’ style dome enclosure proposed by AMEC. The dome has a circular opening, which is positioned by rotating the dome about two axes. The National Research Council of Canada collaborated on developing the concept. It was described in a Toronto Star article as “an enclosure roughly the same eyeball shape as the mini webcams stuck atop some computer monitors.”

AMEC is an international project management and technical services company. Its facility in British Columbia, which specializes in providing solutions for complex steel structures, entered the astronomy field 30 years ago with a small contract to build the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. The company has been involved with most of the major telescopes built since then, including the twin Keck Telescopes and the international Gemini North and Gemini South telescopes. AMEC’s other work spans the globe, from Arctic diamond mines and South American pulp mills to work on the Chunnel and rehabilitating the environment at Cape Canaveral.

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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Copyright © 2007 Thirty Meter Telescope Project, Pasadena, CA