TMT will start its scientific life with a state of the art adaptive optics system called NFIRAOS that will provide exquisite images in many cases over 12 times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope and 4 times sharper than JWST. Adaptive optics works by monitoring the twinkling of light caused by the Earth’s atmosphere and correcting for it through complex algorithms and special mirrors that can be distorted at very fine scales thousands of times per second to directly counteract the atmosphere’s blurring effects. TMT’s system will be tuned to allow for some of the sharpest images taken over the widest areas that are possible for telescopes of its size.
Telescope instruments take the light gathered by the primary mirror and corrected by the adaptive optics system to produce beautiful images, spectra of light, and other information from the selected sky targets. TMT will begin operations with a suite of advanced instrumentation designed to take advantage of its large light-gathering and adaptive optics abilities. WFOS will observe in optical wavelengths and provide deep images of the sky and spectroscopy of up to 100 or more objects simultaneously. IRIS and MODHIS will explore the sky in infrared wavelengths. Besides providing detailed images, IRIS will use an integral field unit to provide spectroscopic information at multiple locations of a single object, thereby combining some of the advantages and information obtained from imaging and spectroscopy at the same time. MODHIS will concentrate on very precise spectroscopy that will allow for the discovery and characterization of exoplanets that orbit distant stars, among many other interesting science cases.