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We are often asked what is happening with the Thirty Meter Telescope since construction was halted in Hawaii in 2015. The good news is that a lot of progress has been made with regards to the design and development of TMT. There’s lots of news from Hawaii as well – see the next article in this newsletter for an update.
Over the last four years, much of the telescope parts and framework have been manufactured in California, Canada, China, Japan and India. Our team has also been busy with many educational and outreach activities. To read the latest news, please visit the TMT website.
Among some of the highlights:
Mirrors: Building a telescope is all about mirrors! And in the case of the TMT, there will be many of them: 492 segmented mirrors, finely assembled together in a honeycomb to make the perfect hyperboloidal shape of a 30m primary mirror, all acting as a single sheet of glass of ultra-high quality and precision. This doesn’t include the essential secondary and tertiary mirrors, which will fold the light and focus it onto the science instruments. Out of the 492 mirror segments that will make the primary, more than 300 mirror blanks have already been cast, and several of them have even started to get polished.
Telescope structure and enclosure: These critical systems have both reached the final design stages and part of these systems have already been built at our partners’ facilities to test the construction processes and quality of the parts.
Instruments: The TMT will have three instruments delivered at – or close – to its science “first-light,” now planned for late in the next decade. [Note that we define “first-light” as the time when all 492 segments of the primary mirror have been installed, phased and aligned, the adaptive optics system NFIRAOSand the science instrument IRIS both integrated and delivering an improved image quality in comparison to a seeing-limited instrument.] One of the first-light instruments, IRIS, has entered the final stage of its design. The beam of near-infrared light that will feed IRIS will first be corrected by TMT's Adaptive Optics facility NFIRAOS, which has nearly completed all of its requirements for passing its final design stage. Another instrument, WFOS, which unlike IRIS, will be a seeing-limited instrument working at visible wavelengths, has gone through a major downselect process of its optical design and is starting its conceptual design phase. WFOS is also expected to be delivered at first-light. The third first-light instrument will be MODHIS, a high-resolution spectrograph fed by NFIRAOS, and whose main science goal will be to characterize the atmosphere of exoplanets.
Community Engagement:TMT is in the community on a regular basis, at events like AstroDay and Ellison Onizuka Day on Hawaii Island. We’re in the classrooms teaching our keiki about STEM and astronomy. And we’re in those communities affected by last year’s Kilauea eruption and devastating storms. We’re also giving students a boost so they can reach STEM-related careers that support them to live, work, and thrive in the islands through the THINK (The Hawai‘i Island New Knowledge) Fund. Since its establishment in 2014, the THINK Fund has committed more than $5.1 million dollars for student scholarships and grants to schools and nonprofits on Hawaii Island.
Meanwhile, La Palma continues to be a plan B should the construction of TMT in Hawaii not be possible.
As you probably know, TMT last week received some welcome news related to the restart of construction.
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) issued a notice to proceed (NTP) to the University of Hawaii for the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea. The NTP is a formal communication indicating that all pre-construction conditions and mitigation measures specifically required as a condition of the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) have been met.
TMT's pledge to Hawaii Island's students has been carried out by two organizations, the Hawaii Community Fund (HCF) and the Pauahi Foundation. HCF receives three-fourths of the $1 million (plus inflation) provided by TMT annually, and Pauahi receives the other one-fourth. All funds go toward STEM education in three areas: scholarships, grants to STEM teachers, and the Career Connected Learning grants to schools and non-profit programs. To date, TMT has provided $5.1 million for STEM education on Hawaii Island. The 2019 grants and scholarships will be announced in the next few months, and we are looking forward to congratulating the next round of very deserving recipients. The link below shows the recipients to date.
TMT staff in Pasadena regularly participate in outreach events and arrange visits and events for all kinds of groups in the local area. A few recent notable events include a visit to the TMT Lab by members of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, a visit to the TMT Project Office by the iBook Club of Pasadena and Rose City High School and presentations about TMT science and engineering at the STEM evening at Ninth Street Elementary School alongside Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles.
TMT participated in the 18th annual AstroDay held at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo on Saturday 04 May, honoring international Astronomy Day. A great community outreach event for the celebration of astronomical sciences. Lots of TMT swag went out the door!
This year’s flagship event, put together by the Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee, included over 40 exhibits, demonstrations and activity areas.
TMT was also present at the UH Institute for Astronomy Open House, Sunday April 7th at the UH Manoa campus in Hawaii. Guided by former Akamai intern Olivia Murray and TMT engineer Virginia Aragon-Barnes among our volunteers, everyone had a great time with the IR camera and the virtual-reality tour of TMT Observatory!
The TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO), a non-profit organization, was established in May 2014 to carry out the construction and operation phases of the TMT Project. The Members of TIO are Caltech, the University of California, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Science and Technology of India, and the National Research Council (Canada); the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a TIO Associate. Major funding has been provided by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation.