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Thirty Meter Telescope Welcomes Recommendations of Decadal Survey

On August 13, 2010, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its Astro2010 report, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, which indentified a Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope (GSMT) as crucial for ground-based astronomy in the coming decade. The report also recommended that the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) immediately select a GSMT partner.

The Thirty Meter Telescope Project (TMT) welcomes the Decadal Survey's recommendations.

The TMT science mission and technical capabilities align closely with the priority science objectives identified by the survey committee: searching for the first stars and galaxies, tracing the formation and growth of supermassive black holes, seeking nearby habitable planets, and understanding the fundamental physics of the Universe.

The report advocates a robust international public/private partnership as the most effective way to construct and operate the GSMT. The TMT project strongly encourages the engagement of the U.S. astronomical community through such a partnership.

Other next-generation astronomical facilities, such as the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), will begin scientific operations in the next few years. This makes a compelling case to realize the capability of the GSMT this decade.

The report also stresses that the combination of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the GSMT’s spectroscopic and high-resolution imaging capabilities are crucial for astronomy in the coming decade.

Since its founding in 2003, the TMT Observatory Corporation has completed the design of the observatory and begun full-scale polishing of the 1.4-meter mirror blanks that will make up the 30-meter diameter primary mirror. TMT also has developed many of the essential prototype components for the telescope, including key adaptive optics technologies and the support and control elements for the 492 mirror segments. These important technology milestones have followed the partners' successful track record in constructing and operating the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

The TMT will also be located on Mauna Kea, where the superb observing conditions will assure that its full capabilities are realized.

The TMT project has had primary financial support for design development from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and from the Canadian partnership. The project has now entered the early construction phase thanks to an additional $200 million pledge from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, with matching funds of $100 million from Caltech and the University of California bringing the total construction pledges to $300 million.

The TMT project is an international partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, joined by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Department of Science and Technology of India.

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