The Long Range Plan (LRP) prepared in 2000 for the Canadian Astronomical Society identified the Very Large Optical Telescope project as a highest priority. A decade later, LRP 2010 confirmed this priority, and the Canadian astronomy community is now on track to realizing this goal, with the Thirty Meter telescope (TMT). Such a telescope will be able to see farther and better than ever before and as a result work well with the upcoming ground and space based missions such as the Square Kilometre Array or SKA (www.skatelescope.ca) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Hubble’s successor.
The TMT will help to answer questions about how stars, planets and galaxies form, about dark matter and energy and the frequency and types of extrasolar planets. We also look forward to a host of wonderful and unanticipated discoveries about the universe we live in. If operating today, the TMT would be the largest telescope ever built. The project was initialized in June 2003 by California universities and ACURA. It has developed into a broad international public-private partnership between the University of California, the California Institute of Technology and Canadian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese agencies. Construction on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i will begin when issues of natives’ claims to the site have been settled.
The TMT is an Extremely Large Telescope, or ELT. ELTs are the next step up from the large telescopes of today which are 8-10 m in diameter. The primary mirror will be made up of over 492 hexagonal segments that span a 30 m diameter. The TMT will operate at both visible and infrared (IR) wavelengths with the use of cutting edge adaptive optics technology, developed at the National Research Council. The enclosure will be built by Canadian industry.
For more information on the International TMT, see www.tmt.org