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The Future of Astronomy:
Transcript of The Future of Astronomy:
Thirty Meter Telescope Project
By Shelby Clute
Thirty Meter Telescope
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is one of the most ambitious ground-based optical/IR astronomical projects that has ever been undertaken. TMT will be sited atop 14,000-ft Mauna Kea on Hawaii's "Big Island."
TMT will join the Keck telescopes, among many other observatories built on the best astronomical site in the Northern hemisphere, and possibly the world. TMT will operate over the wavelength range 0.3-28 microns, taking advantage of Mauna Kea's stable atmospheric conditions, cold ambient temperatures, and low water vapor.
TMT's 30m-diameter primary mirror is made up of 492 segments actively controlled to maintain a near-perfect optical figure. Adaptive optics (AO) capability is fully integrated into the design, providing diffraction-limited spatial resolution from the beginning of operations
Why is TMT needed?
TMT will address scientific questions across all of astrophysics, from cosmology and the first galaxies and black holes in the early universe, to the formation and evolution of galaxies and the intergalactic medium over the last 95% of the age of the universe, to star formation, the detection and characterization of planets around nearby stars, and the exploration of the outer solar system.
The telescopes used by astronomers of today, are limited to what they can allow you to see because of their size. The biggest telescope as of right now is 12 meters. For all of the discoveries left untold, we need something bigger that doesn't limit us to what we can see in space. That is why there is a
Thirty Meter Telescope
Caltech is one of the founding TMT partners (together with long-time Keck partners, the University of California) among an international collaboration. Caltech astronomers and engineers have played and will continue to play key roles in the design and construction of the telescope, AO systems, and science instruments.
This is the Caltech astronomy building.
The building of the TMT began on October 7, 2014. Mauna Kea, often translated as White Mountain because it is sometimes capped with snow, rises 13,796 feet from the Pacific Ocean and is sacred to native Hawaiians.
The ceremony demonstrated the combustible mix of science, local traditions, and politics that have dogged the summit's development for decades and the TMT project in particular. The ceremony was interrupted for several hours as local opponents staged a peaceful protest, using their cars to block the road leading to the summit. Some held signs using TMT to spell out "Too Many Telescopes."
Despite the protests, construction for the TMT has been approved and will move forward. When completed, perhaps as early as 2022, the telescope will leapfrog to the top ranking of the world's largest optical telescopes.
Exploiting technology pioneered for the twin Keck telescopes, the TMT will combine 492 individual hexagonal reflectors, each 1.4 meters across, honeycombed together to yield a primary mirror with an effective diameter of 30 m (98 feet). That giant primary will provide 144 times more collecting area and 10 times better spatial resolution than the Hubble Space Telescope.
Each of the 492 mirror segments that comprise the Thirty Meter Telescope's f/1 primary mirror will be constantly adjusted for optimum alignment.
TMT is the first of what could be multiple mega-telescopes designed to vastly improve the ability of ground-based telescopes to peer into the faint, deep cosmos. The race is on to build TMT and two competing projects: the 27-meter Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) and the European Extremely Large Telescope (EELT).
Why build TMT?
TMT scientists selected Maunakea after a rigorous five-year campaign spanning the entire globe that measured virtually every atmospheric feature that might affect the performance of the telescope. Located above approximately 40 percent of Earth’s atmosphere, the site at 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.
The TMT telescope will provide extremely sharp images that will allow astronomers to see much fainter and more distant objects than possible with existing telescopes, and to study them in greater detail. This represents the possibility of pushing our vision farther into space and our understanding farther back in time to help answer fundamental questions about the universe. It is very likely that TMT will enable discoveries that we cannot even begin to anticipate today.