It began with a dream: To build a revolutionary 30-meter telescope to study the beginnings of the universe in the most optimal place in our Northern Hemisphere. After an extensive site testing campaign, Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island emerged as the preferred site. Located above approximately 40 percent of Earth’s atmosphere, Maunakea has a climate that is particularly stable, dry, and cold; all of which are important characteristics for capturing the sharpest images and producing the best science. In addition, the atmosphere over Maunakea offers exceptional conditions for astronomical measurements with adaptive optics, which will be equipped on TMT.
Maunakea is also of cultural, historical and environmental significance to many Native Hawaiians and others in Hawaiʻi. Located 500 feet below the summit, TMT’s site was chosen because of its lack of archaeological, cultural or biological impact. It was also selected in response to concerns from Native Hawaiians that there be no more development on the summit of Maunakea and its pu‘u (peaks), as these cultural areas need to be protected. TMT is committed to minimizing its impact on this special place. Environmental considerations include the facility's zero waste design and the use of a special reflective aluminum-like coating on the dome of the telescope to reduce the visibility of the structure.
Education and community engagement are part of the core mission of TMT. In 2014, TMT launched The Hawaiʻi Island New Knowledge (THINK) Fund to support Hawaiʻi Island students interested in STEM careers. TMT also initiated a Workforce Pipeline Program and provided support for summer internships, STEM camps, Robotics teams, community events and more..
As of 2022, TMT is under new direction with a small team of staff in Hilo, Hawaiʻi whose priority is community support. TMT staff are building the relationships and trust necessary for supporting Hawaiʻi’s various communities through grassroots communications and community-driven educational programs. Through partnerships and collaborations with Hawaiʻi community leaders, schools, and non-profit organizations, TMT is focused on meeting Hawaiʻi communities’ needs with innovative programming in education, infrastructure and mālama ʻāina (honoring the land).