Mauna Kea selected for powerful telescope

July 22nd, 2009  |  by  |  Published in Research News

Artist's rendering showing hexagonal mirror segments

Artist’s rendering showing segmented mirror’s inside observatory; illustrations used with permission of TMT Observatory Corp.

Mauna Kea will be home to a telescope with nine times the collecting area of the largest existing optical telescopes.

Citing superior atmospheric conditions, low average temperatures, and very low humidity, the board of directors for the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, announced their selection of Hawaiʻi over Chile’s Cerro Armazones on July 21.

Called the most capable and advanced telescope ever constructed, TMT will integrate the latest innovations in precision control, segmented mirror design, and adaptive optics to correct for the blurring effect of Earth’s atmosphere, enabling TMT to study the universe as clearly as if the telescope were in space. The core technology will be a 30-meter primary mirror composed of 492 segments.

In keeping with the Mauna Kea master plan, the telescope will be built on the northwest plateau rather than at the summit. Slated for completion in 2018, the project is expected to boost construction and related industries and bring 140 permanent jobs and a $1 million annual grant for educational activities to the Big Island.

The TMT project is an international partnership of the California Institute of Technology, University of California and ACURA, an organization of Canadian universities. The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan joined as a collaborating institution in 2008. It is being funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation with contributions Canadian partners and matching funds to be raised by California universities.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo were involved in bringing the telescope to Mauna Kea.

View animation of the telescope’s light gathering process.

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