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2020 End of the Year Newsletter

December 18th, 2020

TMT News
December 2020


Thirty Meter Telescope
Astronomy's Next-Generation Observatory

End of the Year Newsletter

[Note: This newsletter has been designed to be best viewed in a browser.]

2020 was a difficult year for all of us inhabitants of Planet Earth. The notion of “Pale Blue Dot” expressed by Carl Sagan 30 years ago, to describe the fragility and beauty of our world, comes to our mind in full force when looking back at the past months. While most of us are looking toward 2021 with an immense sense of hope, it is also a time to look back over the last year to thank and congratulate the TMT scientific community, our international partners and supporters, for their many achievements and for keeping astronomy at the forefront of scientific research. We have many TMT stories to share, all involving an incredible level of activities and meetings coordinated remotely, without face-to-face human interaction!
Earlier this month TMT Project Manager Gary Sanders announced that he will retire at the start of 2021. Gary joined TMT 16 years ago, and under his leadership, the project teams were able to develop an amazing design at such a high level of maturity that we are now fully ready to construct what will be an extraordinary telescope. All TMT staff and TIO partners are enormously proud and thankful for Gary’s leadership and we wish him the best of all times for his retirement. We are fortunate that Fengchuan Liu, who until now was Gary’s Deputy, will assume the Project Manager (acting) position. More info to be found here.
More TMT News

Congratulations again to Professor Andrea Ghez for her Nobel Prize in Physics this year! Her Nobel prize lecture is available at .

TMT’s Enclosure System has achieved its final design milestone and is ready for production.

Update on the situation in Hawaii and the Canary Islands:
Responding to requests and community needs, TMT has focused its activities to help families in need going through these difficult times. For an update on how COVID-19 has impacted our partners in Hawaii and the Canary Islands, please read Sandra Dawson’s (Community Affairs Manager) article.

Keeping TMT science community up-to-date:
It’s important that we keep the TMT science community informed about the project. Toward this end, we issue this newsletter throughout the year. In addition, this past July, the project organized a series of webinars; the first of which was dedicated to describing the Hawaii and La Palma sites and providing a comparative study on TMT science. The presentation, a video recording, and other supporting documents of the webinars can be accessed on our website. Airing such webinars is even more important now that we cannot meet face-to-face during our annual TMT Science Forum. We will continue to organize these remote meetings on a regular basis. Topics for future webinars are being discussed and could cover for instance advancements made on TMT science instruments, or TMT scientific operations and support to the users’ community.

Also, TMT was present at SPIE Astronomical Telescopes & Instrumentation 2020, and will be participating together with its US-ELTP partners at the virtual AAS 237th conference in January 2021. Please connect and listen to our presentations for more information about the project, the US-ELT Program, and visit our virtual booth to ask any questions and meet with the TMT team.

Our technically savvy readers will find below a few highlights of TMT's advancements made over the past months, while the whole team was working remotely. 

In the spirit of the holidays, we share with you some artistic impressions made by the youngest members of the TMT family. The entire TMT team wishes you a Happy Holidays season and Happy New Year 2021!
TMT Technical News

TMT Primary Mirror Segment Polishing at Canon Inc. in Japan.
Image courtesy of Canon Inc.
A major milestone was reached just a few days ago, with the first polished roundel for TMT’s Primary Mirror (M1) completed by Canon Inc. in Tokyo, Japan.  The TMT conformance review meeting for this roundel was conducted remotely via video conferencing on December 3, 2020. The roundel was confirmed to meet all stringent requirements set by the Project. This approval of the first polished roundel validates years of efforts by Canon Inc. to design a performant mirror polishing process. TMT partners in China, India and California will also be involved in polishing M1 segments that will pave TMT’s primary mirror. 

Continuing with TMT’s optical system, Coherent Inc., based in California and one of the world’s leading providers of photonic solutions, was selected to provide the hexagonal cutting process for all U.S. manufactured TMT mirror segments. Following polishing, M1 segments must undergo a delicate fabrication process called Hex Cutting, which consists of cutting the round-shaped polished aspheric mirrors (or “roundels”) into the final hexagonal contour required for TMT’s primary mirror. A total of 574 roundels (492 to make TMT’s primary mirror, and 82 spare segments) will need to be “hex cut” prior to mounting on their support assembly. 
Another key optical component is TMT’s Optical Test Instrument Systems (named “TINS”), which will be used for aligning very accurately TMT’s primary, secondary and tertiary mirrors during their integration to the telescope structure and also during periodic operational maintenance activities of TMT’s main optics. TINS successfully passed its Preliminary Design Review (PDR) last October and will now proceed to final design [Click for full TINS story]. And, of course, all these mirrors will need to be regularly cleaned every few weeks once installed on the telescope. TMT’s optics cleaning system (CLN) passed a successful PDR last August. It will use liquefied CO2 gas which will be expanded through the mirrors’ cleaning arms, to generate the CO2 snow that will remove dust particles from all mirror surfaces. The CLN system is now progressing toward its final design stage, to develop a safe and effective design for the telescope and its personnel [Click for full CLN story].
Any telescope, including TMT, needs an elaborate infrastructure to host all power, control and communication of its complex systems. The Telescope Utility Services (TUS) is such a crucial system for TMT and last October it passed the first phase of its final design review (FDR) dealing with the design of the utility services for the telescope structure and its various interfaces. This was the result of a huge team effort involving not only TMT but also M3 Engineering, TMT’s engineering contractor, and the TMT Japan/MELCO teams. TUS can now move to the last PDR phases, which will deal with interfaces for the science instruments, the mirror alignment and phasing system, the Adaptive Optics facility (NFIRAOS), and other subsystems. 
As part of the Telescope Utility Services, TMT's lighting system provides illumination of all working areas at the telescope floors and platforms, as well as the telescope access paths and walkways.
Image credit: TMT International Observatory.
TMT first-light science instruments are also making major progress in their designs. IRIS, TMT’s AO-fed near-infrared spectro-imager, is close to completing its final design stage, and WFOS, TMT’s seeing-limited wide-field optical spectrograph, recently reached an important milestone by passing its first interim Conceptual Design Review. This review was key in discussing WFOS science cases, leading to adopting further functional requirements and assessing newly developed opto-mechanical concepts. WFOS’s design has enormously progressed this past year, and the instrument team is now on a solid track towards its full Conceptual Design Review  [Click for full WFOS story].
Detailed cross-sectional view of the WFOS Instrument - The WFOS design now features a vertical orientation that enables the instrument to be gravity invariant as it de-rotates the field during observations.
Image credit: TMT International Observatory
Another important achievement made earlier this year concerned TMT’s near-infrared instruments cryogenic cooling system (CRYO), which successfully passed its conceptual design review last June. The CRYO design has reached a high level of maturity, which will allow this system to move directly to its final design phase. All of TMT first-light science instruments, the InfraRed Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), the Multi-Object Diffraction-limited High-Resolution Infrared Spectrograph (MODHIS), and the Wide-Field multi-Object Spectrograph (WFOS) will use CRYO for maintaining all key-elements at their optimal operating temperature [Click for full CRYO story].

Last but not least, we previously informed you in an earlier newsletter about the US-Extremely Large Telescope Program (US-ELTP), which was presented last February to a panel of experts for the 2020 Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics (Astro2020). GMT, NSF’s NOIRLab and TMT, all US-ELTP partners, held two joint Science Advisory Committee Meetings this year. The motivation for these meetings was to share our roadmap of instrument development and discuss the level of science operation services that will be provided to support US-ELTP users in developing and implementing the transformative science programs that will make use of the extraordinary capabilities of the TMT and GMT [First TMT-GMT Joint SAC Meeting story].

From Christophe Dumas,
TMT Observatory Scientist 

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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.
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