The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) concept render (via California Institute of Technology)
It may be awhile before humans can venture far into deep space in search of answers to questions regarding the universe and the nature of existence - however, that is not stopping scientists from peering out into space to see what they can find. The long-awaited Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), which will soon be the largest telescope on Earth, has finally been cleared for construction atop the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Though construction is not slated to start until April of 2014, the decision to build comes after years of development and opposition from local natives who were concerned with the impact the telescope would have on their sacred land.
The TMT originally began as the California Extremely Large Telescope back in the early 90s, but thanks to an overwhelmingly positive response on the project has since gained several partnerships and a new name in the early 2000s. TMT collaborators are comprised of many major universities, such as: the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, he Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, a consortium of Chinese institutions led by the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and institutions in India supported by the Department of Science and Technology of India.
Opposition for the TMT’s construction came heavily from the local Hawaiian community with concerns about the protection of Mauna Kea’s sacred environment. In February of this year, a final hearing was held where the approval was made to go forward with construction as long as the community’s wishes were respected. The plan will now move forward to benefit both the advancement of science and the local Hawaiian natives - honoring their cherished land full of cultural and historical significance with careful construction and providing annual funding for local education.
Mauna Kea (Hawaii) from 2001, already littered with various telescopes, what is one more - right? (via I.M. Gioia)
The name TMT is a direct reference to the telescope’s 30-meter diameter primary meter that is in fact made up of 492 smaller hexagonal mirrors, each of which can be controlled actively. The entire rig will be fitted atop an altitude-alzimuth mount capable of re-orienting the direction of the telescope between any two celestial objects within 5 minutes at an accuracy of 2 arc seconds (one arc second = one-sixtieth of a degree). Observations will be made in the near ultraviolet to mid-infrared light range utilizing an adaptive focus system that eliminates blurring effects caused by the atmosphere for a crystal clear look into deep space. When complete, the TMT will allow scientists to peer into the sky to study the Milky Way, its neighboring galaxies, and forming galaxies near the edge of the observable Universe. The following list was provided by the TMT Foundation to showcase the telescope’s intended purpose and capability:
- Dark energydark matterStandard Model of particle physics
- Characterization of the first starsgalaxies
- Characterization of the epoch of reionization
- Galaxy assembly and evolution over the past 13 billion years
- Connections between supermassive black holes
- Star-by-star dissection of galaxies out to 10 million parsecs
- Physics of planetstar formation
- Kuiper belt
- Solar system planetary atmosphere
- The search for life
If all goes well, astronomers will begin observation in 2021. For more information on TMT, please visit their website at http://www.tmt.org
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