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  • richardmitnick 7:59 am on December 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Will the United States Lose the Universe?", , , , , , , , Mount Wilson Observatory-60-inch Hale telescope and 100-inch Hooker telescope built in 1917 where Edwin Hubble discover that the universe is expanding, , , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From The New York Times: “Will the United States Lose the Universe?” 

    New York Times

    From The New York Times

    Dec. 23, 2019
    Dennis Overbye

    1
    A Supermoon, or perigee moon, rises behind the historic Mount Wilson Observatory, northeast of Los Angeles on July 12, 2014. The observatory houses the 60-inch Hale telescope, built in 1908, and the, formerly world’s largest, 100-inch Hooker telescope built in 1917.Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

    For more than a century, American astronomers have held bragging rights as observers of the cosmos. But that dominance may soon slip away.

    The United States is about to lose the universe.

    It wouldn’t be quite the same as, say, losing China to communism in the 1940s. No hostile ideologies or forces are involved. But much is at stake: American intellectual, technical and economic might, cultural pedigree and the cosmic bragging rights that have been our nation’s for the last century.

    In 1917, the 100-inch Hooker telescope went into operation on Mount Wilson in California, and Edwin Hubble eventually used it to discover that the universe is expanding.

    Mt Wilson 100 inch Hooker Telescope Interior

    Edwin Hubble looking through a 100-inch Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson in Southern California, 1929 discovers the Universe is Expanding

    Until very recently, the mightiest telescopes on Earth have been on American mountaintops like Palomar, Kitt Peak and Mauna Kea. They revealed the Big Bang, black holes and quasars.

    Caltech Palomar 200 inch Hale Telescope, Altitude 1,713 m (5,620 ft), located in San Diego County, California, United States

    Kitt Peak National Observatory of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers 55 mi west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

    1
    Some of the observatories on Mauna Kea [Credit: Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii]

    But no more. In 2025 the European Southern Observatory, a multinational treaty organization akin to CERN but looking outward instead of inward, will invite the first light into a telescope that will dwarf all others. The European Extremely Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal in Chile will have a primary light-gathering mirror 39 meters in diameter, making it 13 times more powerful than any telescope now working and more sharp-eyed than the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.

    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. located at the summit of the mountain at an altitude of 3,060 metres (10,040 ft).

    The European goliath will be able to see the glow of planets orbiting other stars and peer into the black hearts of faraway galaxies. Who knows what else it might bring into view.

    There are two American-led telescope projects that could compete with the European giant, if they are ever built: the Thirty Meter Telescope, slated for construction on Mauna Kea, in Hawaii, and the Giant Magellan on Cerro Las Campanas, in Chile. But both are mired in financial difficulties and political controversies, and their completion, if it happens, is at least a decade away.

    TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, proposed and now approved for Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Giant Magellan Telescope, to be at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Las Campanas Observatory, to be built some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory in the southern Atacama Desert of Chile in the Atacama Region approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of the city of La Serena,near the southern end and over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    Work on the Thirty Meter Telescope, or T.M.T., has been stalled for years by a protest movement arguing that decades of telescope building on Mauna Kea have polluted and desecrated a mountain that is sacred to Polynesian culture, and have violated the rights of native Hawaiians. The team behind the project has vowed to move it to the Canary Islands if it can’t go forward in Hawaii.

    Both projects are hundreds of millions of dollars short of the financing they need to build their telescopes. Without them, American astronomers, accustomed to V.I.P. seating in observations of the universe, could be largely consigned to the cosmic bleachers in years to come. Early next year, probably in late February, representatives of the two telescope projects will appear before a blue-ribbon panel of the National Academy of Sciences plead for help.

    The panel is part of the so-called Decadal Survey, in which the astronomy community ranks its priorities for spending federal money. Congress and agencies like the National Science Foundation traditionally take their cues from the survey’s recommendations. A high ranking could shake loose money from the National Science Foundation, which has traditionally funded ground-based observatories.

    Without the National Academy’s endorsement, the telescopes face an uphill struggle to reach completion. Even with an endorsement, the way will be tough. The Trump Administration appears to be trying to eliminate the National Science Foundation’s funding for large facilities such as observatories. So much for successes like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which detected colliding black holes. Luckily for now, Congress has resisted these cuts.

    The telescopes are not cheap. They will need at least a billion more dollars between them to get to the finish line, maybe more. So far, the team behind the Giant Magellan Telescope has raised about $600 million from its partners and seeks an equivalent amount from the National Science Foundation.

    3
    Telescopes at the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Gov. Ige says he and other state employees have received death threats amid the heated debate over building a giant telescope on the state’s highest peak.Credit…Caleb Jones/Associated Press

    Visible here are Keck telescopes, NAOJ Subaru and NASA Infrared Telescope facility:

    Keck Observatory, operated by Caltech and the University of California, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft), above sea level,

    NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    NASA Infrared Telescope facility Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, 4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    The T.M.T. collaboration, now officially know as the T.M.T. International Observatory — T.I.O., in case you haven’t read enough acronyms — has publicly put the cost of its telescope at $1.4 billion, but recent analyses by knowledgeable outsiders come up with a price tag of more than $2 billion.

    In return for that investment, all American astronomers, not just collaboration members, will gain access to both giant telescopes to pursue certain important projects.

    Granted, even without these mammoth glass eyes, American astronomers will still have instruments in space, like the beloved Hubble Space Telescope and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope. But Hubble is growing old, and the Webb telescope, with a snake-bitten history of development, will spend a tense several months unfolding itself in space once it reaches orbit in 2021.

    Astronomers will also have the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, already under construction in Chile, which will in effect make movies of the entire universe every few nights.

    The LSST Vera Rubin Survey Telescope

    LSST Camera, built at SLAC



    LSST telescope, currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.


    LSST Data Journey, Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

    But that telescope is only 8 meters in size and will not see as deep into space as the Really Big Eyes. And, of course, U.S. astronomers will be able to sign on to projects as partners of their European colleagues, much like American physicists now troop to CERN, in Geneva.

    The need for giant, ground-based telescopes was apparent to American astronomers 20 years ago. The Thirty Meter project originated at the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, and has grown to include Canada, Japan, China and India. The Giant Magellan started at the Carnegie Observatories and now includes several universities and research institutes, as well as South Korea, Australia and the State of São Paulo, in Brazil.

    The two projects have been fighting for partners and funds ever since. Two telescopes, one in the North and the other in the South, would complement each other, so the story has gone. Until now, neither telescope has been able to enlist the federal government as a partner.

    Last year the two groups agreed to make joint cause to Academy panel and the astronomical community.

    As Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy said then, “Both projects finally woke up to the fact they are being creamed by the European 39-meter.”

    But the Thirty Meter team has yet to make peace with the protesters, in Hawaii, for whom the telescope represents a long history of colonial disrespect of native rights and culture.

    Last July, construction workers arrived at Mauna Kea to start building the telescope, only to find that nine protesters had handcuffed themselves to a cattle guard, blocking the road up the mountain.

    The ensuing standoff captured the imagination of people sympathetic to the plight of indigenous people, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii (who is also running for president), and generated unease within the collaboration. In July, Vivek Goel, vice president for research at the University of Toronto, one of the Canadian partners in the Thirty Meter projected, issued a statement that the university “does not condone the use of police force in furthering its research objectives.”

    The Thirty Meter team recently secured a building permit for their alternative telescope site, on La Palma, in Spain’s Canary Islands. But that mountain is only half as high as Mauna Kea, leaving more atmosphere and water vapor between the astronomers and the stars. Some of the T.M.T. partners, like Canada and Japan, are less than enthusiastic about the possible switch. An environmental organization, Ben Magec, has vowed to fight the telescope, saying the area is rife with archaeological artifacts. Moreover, moving the telescope off American soil, would only complicate the politics of obtaining funding from the National Science Foundation.

    Back in 2003, when these giant-telescope efforts were starting, Richard Ellis, an astronomer now at University College London, said, “We are really going to have a hard time building even one of these.” He didn’t know just how true that was.

    Now, as the wheels of the academic and government bureaucracy begin to turn, many American astronomers worry that they are following in the footsteps of their physicist colleagues. In 1993, Congress canceled the Superconducting Super Collider, and the United States ceded the exploration of inner space to Europe and CERN, which built the Large Hadron Collider, 27 miles in diameter, where the long-sought Higgs boson was eventually discovered.

    Superconducting Super Collider map, in the vicinity of Waxahachie, Texas, Cancelled by The U.S. Congress in 1993 because it showed no “immediate economic benefit”

    CERN/LHC Map

    The United States no longer builds particle accelerators. There could come a day, soon, when Americans no longer build giant telescopes. That would be a crushing disappointment to a handful of curious humans stuck on Earth, thirsting for cosmic grandeur. In outer space, nobody can hear you cry.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:48 pm on August 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alternate site for TMT at La Palma in the Canary Islands is becoming more probable., , , , , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From Thirty Meter Telescope via physicsworld.com: “Thirty Meter Telescope forges ahead with Canary Islands site” 

    Thirty Meter Telescope Banner

    Thirty Meter Telescope
    From Thirty Meter Telescope

    via

    physicsworld
    From physicsworld.com

    06 Aug 2019
    Michael Banks

    2
    Making plans: Government officials in Spain say they have “everything ready” if those behind the Thirty Meter Telescope decide to build it at La Palma in the Canary Islands. (Courtesy: M3 Engineering)

    Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the municipality of Garafía on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, at an altitude of 2,396 m (7,861 ft)

    Officials at the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) have indicated they will seek a building permit to construct the giant telescope on the island of La Palma, belonging to Spain’s Canary Islands. While Mauna Kea in Hawaii remains the preferred site for the TMT, the continuing protests on the island are forcing officials to proceed with the legal requirements to build the observatory elsewhere.

    Designed to have a primary mirror 30 m across made of 492 hexagonal segments enclosed in a structure 66 m wide and 56 m tall, when built the TMT will allow astronomers to resolve the faintest and oldest galaxies. The TMT board had chosen Mauna Kea, which already hosts 13 other telescopes, as the observatory’s site in July 2009. Since then, the organization has received a series of necessary approvals and permits (see timeline below).

    “Our position is that we are here if the TMT project needs us”.
    Rafael Rebolo

    However, native Hawaiians, who regard the Mauna Kea summit as sacred – and who had previously objected to the growth in the number of telescopes there – have protested against the telescope’s construction. Last month, when the TMT was again allowed to proceed towards construction, protesters blocked access roads to the mountain leading to arrests by police. Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources then granted a two-year extension to the deadline for starting construction, which is now set at 26 September 2021.
    Support at ‘all levels’

    Since 2016, the TMT Organisation has been studying alternative sites for the TMT should Mauna Kea not be a viable option and later that same year it selected the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos in La Palma as its preferred alternative site. In April 2018, TMT officials then postponed a final site decision to wait for “further progress in the legal process”.

    Rafael Rebolo, director of the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute, has told the Associated Press that he has received a letter from the head of the Thirty Meter Telescope project saying that its board has now decided “to proceed with the request to seek a building permit” for La Palma. “We are observing what is happening in Hawaii with the maximum respect,” Rebolo told AP. “Our position is that we are here if the TMT project needs us.”

    In a statement yesterday, TMT executive director Ed Stone notes that Mauna Kea remains the “preferred site” for the TMT. “We continue to follow the process to allow for TMT to be constructed at the site in La Palma should it not be possible to build in Hawaii,” he says. “This process has been ongoing since 2016.”

    Given that the project has the strong backing from government officials in Spain, the permit would face little resistance. Indeed, Spain’s science minister, Pedro Duque, last month issued his support. “We maintain the capacity and the goodwill of all the authorities and at all levels in the Spanish state so that if there is a decision to bring the telescope to the Canaries, [we] are all aligned in order to receive this telescope,” he stated on 30 July. “We have all the necessary plans at all levels, the people, the speed, the systems, absolutely everything is ready if they want to come.”

    The possibility of relocating the TMT away from Mauna Kea has concerned some astronomers who think that La Palma’s environmental conditions will limit the telescope’s scientific potential. In particular, the warmer climate and lower elevation of La Palma compared to Mauna Kea will affect mid-infrared observations, which require dry, cool conditions. Such measurements are used, for example, to characterize nearby exoplanets and their atmospheres, and losing that ability would almost eradicate the exoplanet programme from the TMT’s science goals.

    Yet, if the TMT is built at La Palma, then officials hope that the loss of sensitivity would be mitigated in part by adaptive optics and by carefully scheduling observations so that those requiring high infrared sensitivity can be on the clearest nights.

    See the full article here .

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    Near the center of Pasadena, California, a team of scientists, engineers, and project specialists is busily planning and designing what eventually will become the most advanced and powerful optical telescope on Earth. When completed later this decade, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will enable astronomers to study objects in our own solar system and stars throughout our Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies, and forming galaxies at the very edge of the observable Universe, near the beginning of time.
    Partners
    The Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy
    California Institute of Technology
    Department of Science and Technology of India
    The National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC)
    National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
    University of California

     
  • richardmitnick 3:46 pm on November 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From NOAO: “The US Extremely Large Telescope Program” 

    NOAO Banner

    From NOAO

    11.7.18
    Mark Dickinson

    1

    NOAO, the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Organization, and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) International Observatory, are continuing our joint effort to develop a US Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) Program.

    Giant Magellan Telescope, to be at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Las Campanas Observatory, to be built some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, proposed and now approved for Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Our primary goal is to enable forefront research by the broad US astronomical community via open access to significant shares of observing time with both TMT and GMT. In the coming decade, ELTs with 20-m to 40-m primary mirror diameters will peer out into the Universe with unprecedented sensitivity and angular resolution, enabling scientific investigations beyond the reach of present-day observatories, in nearly all fields of astronomical research from our Solar System to cosmology. The combination of TMT and GMT provides access to both hemispheres and more diverse observing capabilities, enabling integrated science programs that go beyond the reach of a single facility.

    In recent news and activities related to the US ELT Program:

    The importance of national access to (and federal investment in) these capabilities was again highlighted in the recent Exoplanet Science Strategy report commissioned by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. The report recommended that “the National Science Foundation (NSF) invest in both the GMT and TMT and their exoplanet instrumentation to provide all-sky access to the US Community.”

    More than 250 astronomers are currently working together to develop concepts for Key Science Programs (KSPs) using TMT and GMT. KSPs will address questions of fundamental scientific importance that may require tens to hundreds of observing nights with GMT, TMT, or both observatories working in concert, taking advantage of their combined view of the full sky, or of their complementary instrumental capabilities. It is envisioned that KSPs will follow open collaboration models that encourage broad, diverse participation by observers, theorists, and data scientists throughout the US community. More than 85 scientists will gather in Tucson for a KSP Development Workshop in mid-November. If you would like to contribute to KSP development, please register using the on-line form.

    Site excavation for the GMT’s concrete pier and enclosure began at Las Campanas Observatory in August, and is expected to take about five months to complete.

    The Supreme Court of the State of Hawai’i has upheld an earlier decision by the State Board of Land and Natural Resources to issue a Conservation District Use Permit for the construction of TMT on Maunakea.

    See the full article here .


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    NOAO News
    NOAO is the US national research & development center for ground-based night time astronomy. In particular, NOAO is enabling the development of the US optical-infrared (O/IR) System, an alliance of public and private observatories allied for excellence in scientific research, education and public outreach.

    Our core mission is to provide public access to qualified professional researchers via peer-review to forefront scientific capabilities on telescopes operated by NOAO as well as other telescopes throughout the O/IR System. Today, these telescopes range in aperture size from 2-m to 10-m. NOAO is participating in the development of telescopes with aperture sizes of 20-m and larger as well as a unique 8-m telescope that will make a 10-year movie of the Southern sky.

    In support of this mission, NOAO is engaged in programs to develop the next generation of telescopes, instruments, and software tools necessary to enable exploration and investigation through the observable Universe, from planets orbiting other stars to the most distant galaxies in the Universe.

    To communicate the excitement of such world-class scientific research and technology development, NOAO has developed a nationally recognized Education and Public Outreach program. The main goals of the NOAO EPO program are to inspire young people to become explorers in science and research-based technology, and to reach out to groups and individuals who have been historically under-represented in the physics and astronomy science enterprise.

    The National Optical Astronomy Observatory is proud to be a US National Node in the International Year of Astronomy, 2009.

    About Our Observatories:
    Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO)

    Kitt Peak

    Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) has its headquarters in Tucson and operates the Mayall 4-meter, the 3.5-meter WIYN , the 2.1-meter and Coudé Feed, and the 0.9-meter telescopes on Kitt Peak Mountain, about 55 miles southwest of the city.

    Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO)

    NOAO Cerro Tolo

    The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) is located in northern Chile. CTIO operates the 4-meter, 1.5-meter, 0.9-meter, and Curtis Schmidt telescopes at this site.

    The NOAO System Science Center (NSSC)

    NOAO Gemini North

    Gemini South telescope

    The NOAO System Science Center (NSSC) at NOAO is the gateway for the U.S. astronomical community to the International Gemini Project: twin 8.1 meter telescopes in Hawaii and Chile that provide unprecendented coverage (northern and southern skies) and details of our universe.

    NOAO is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy under a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:59 pm on May 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics, , , , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, U.S. Extremely Large Telescope (US-ELT) Program   

    From NOAO: U S EXTREMELY LARGE TELESCOPE PROGRAM 

    NOAO Banner

    From NOAO

    U.S. EXTREMELY LARGE TELESCOPE PROGRAM
    21 May 2018
    U.S. national observatory and two extremely large telescope projects team up to enhance U.S. scientific leadership in astronomy and astrophysics
    A new research frontier in astronomy and astrophysics will open in the mid-2020s with the advent of ground-based extremely large optical-infrared telescopes (ELTs) with primary mirrors in the 20-m – 40-m range. U.S. scientific leadership in astronomy and astrophysics will be significantly enhanced if the broad U.S. community can take advantage of the power of these new ELTs.
    In that context, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO), and the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory (TIO) have embarked on the development of a U.S. Extremely Large Telescope (US-ELT) Program.
    Our shared mission is to strengthen scientific leadership by the U.S. community-at-large through access to extremely large telescopes in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. This two-hemisphere model will provide the U.S. science community with greater and more diverse research opportunities than can be achieved with a single telescope, and hence more opportunities for leadership.
    Our immediate task is advocacy for frontier research programs led by U.S community scientists that can achieve exceptional advancements in humanity’s understanding of the cosmos.
    Our audience is the U.S. research community as represented by the upcoming Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics (an enterprise of the U.S. National Academies).
    As an essential part of that immediate task, we will work with the U.S. research community to develop exemplar Key Science Programs (KSPs) within major research areas including the dark universe, first stars & first galaxies, exoplanet atmospheres, the surfaces of satellites and other small bodies throughout Solar System, and/or other topics to be proposed and prioritized by community-based working groups.
    Key Science Programs are envisioned to be open collaborations that gather observers, theorists, and data scientists together to exploit significant investments of Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) observing time, from tens to hundreds of nights.

    TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, proposed and now approved for Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Giant Magellan Telescope, to be at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Las Campanas Observatory, to be built some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    Some of these collaborations are expected to be international in nature. If well-justified by KSP plans, we envisage that at least 25% of the observing time at each international observatory will be available for the U.S. community.
    The KSPs chosen for presentation to the Decadal Survey will not be the final programs. Astronomy and astrophysics will continue to evolve rapidly during construction of GMT and TMT, thanks to previous investments in ground– and space-based observatories, such as the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the NASA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Actual KSPs will be selected by peer-review before the start of GMT and TMT science operations.

    NASA/MIT TESS

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    LSST


    LSST Camera, built at SLAC



    LSST telescope, currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    NOAO, TIO, and GMTO are committed to enabling diversity within KSP collaborations. We seek to empower the best minds, no matter their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or institutional affiliation.
    More information about the U.S. ELT Program and how community scientists can join KSP development groups will be available after mid-June 2018.
    Issued by the National Science Foundation’s National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), with concurrence of the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory (TIO) and Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO)
    CONTACT: Dr. David Silva, Director, NOAO, dsilva@noao.edu


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NOAO News
    NOAO is the US national research & development center for ground-based night time astronomy. In particular, NOAO is enabling the development of the US optical-infrared (O/IR) System, an alliance of public and private observatories allied for excellence in scientific research, education and public outreach.

    Our core mission is to provide public access to qualified professional researchers via peer-review to forefront scientific capabilities on telescopes operated by NOAO as well as other telescopes throughout the O/IR System. Today, these telescopes range in aperture size from 2-m to 10-m. NOAO is participating in the development of telescopes with aperture sizes of 20-m and larger as well as a unique 8-m telescope that will make a 10-year movie of the Southern sky.

    In support of this mission, NOAO is engaged in programs to develop the next generation of telescopes, instruments, and software tools necessary to enable exploration and investigation through the observable Universe, from planets orbiting other stars to the most distant galaxies in the Universe.

    To communicate the excitement of such world-class scientific research and technology development, NOAO has developed a nationally recognized Education and Public Outreach program. The main goals of the NOAO EPO program are to inspire young people to become explorers in science and research-based technology, and to reach out to groups and individuals who have been historically under-represented in the physics and astronomy science enterprise.

    The National Optical Astronomy Observatory is proud to be a US National Node in the International Year of Astronomy, 2009.

    About Our Observatories:
    Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO)

    Kitt Peak

    Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) has its headquarters in Tucson and operates the Mayall 4-meter, the 3.5-meter WIYN , the 2.1-meter and Coudé Feed, and the 0.9-meter telescopes on Kitt Peak Mountain, about 55 miles southwest of the city.

    Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO)

    NOAO Cerro Tolo

    The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) is located in northern Chile. CTIO operates the 4-meter, 1.5-meter, 0.9-meter, and Curtis Schmidt telescopes at this site.

    The NOAO System Science Center (NSSC)

    Gemini North
    Gemini North

    Gemini South telescope
    Gemini South

    The NOAO System Science Center (NSSC) at NOAO is the gateway for the U.S. astronomical community to the International Gemini Project: twin 8.1 meter telescopes in Hawaii and Chile that provide unprecendented coverage (northern and southern skies) and details of our universe.

    NOAO is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy under a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:08 pm on September 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Finally, , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From Lowell: “Thirty Meter Telescope receives approval for Maunakea construction” 

    Lowell Observatory bloc

    Lowell Observatory

    Atro Alerts Lowell Observatory

    TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, proposed and now approved for Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Breaking news: After a long, l-o-n-g judicial process, the State of Hawaii has granted a construction permit to build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Maunakea.

    TMT is one of three next-generation giant telescopes that will revolutionize astronomy, and the only one that will be built in the northern hemisphere (the other two, the Extremely Large Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope will both be built in Chile).

    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile

    Giant Magellan Telescope, to be at Las Campanas Observatory, to be built some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    Plans to put the TMT on the summit of Maunakea in Hawaii ran into numerous legal challenges and protests from some Native Hawaiians who consider the mountain to be a sacred cultural site. A previous construction permit was rescinded because proper court procedures had not been followed. But now, after revisiting the arguments for and against building the TMT on Maunakea, Hawaii’s state land board gave final approval today for the project to proceed.

    Astronomers consider Maunakea to be the best astronomical site in the world, and it’s already home to a dozen of the world’s most powerful telescopes. I had the privilege of using the Keck telescope for my research there three night ago and sky conditions were exquisite, the best I’ve had in years.


    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Permission to build the TMT on Maunakea will be greeted with great enthusiasm by the vast majority of astronomers. The Native Hawaiian community is more divided, with polls showing a small majority support TMT construction. Without permission to move forward on Maunakea, TMT had planned to abandon Hawaii next year and build instead on the Spanish island of La Palma, which most astronomers feel is not as good a site.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that we’ve not heard the last from protesters. When construction was slated to begin last year, protesters blocked the road to the summit, bringing a quick halt to construction and setting the project back more than a year while the courts considered multiple legal challenges. I’d be surprised if there isn’t more civil disobedience when TMT begins construction again.

    If you’d like to know more, just click on the links below:

    http://www.staradvertiser.com/2017/09/28/breaking-news/state-land-board-grants-construction-permit-for-thirty-meter-telescope/

    http://www.kitv.com/story/36478159/tmt-approved-by-land-board

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/thirty-meter-telescope-hawaii-mauna-kea-approval/

    Also, if you’d like more background on the controversy over Maunakea, here’s an opinion piece I wrote for Scientific American a couple of years ago:

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/on-mauna-kea-astronomers-and-hawaiians-can-share-the-skies/

    Best regards,

    Michael at Lowell

    Received via email .

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    Lowell Observatory campus

    Lowell Observatory is an independent, non-profit research institution located in Flagstaff, Arizona – the world’s first International Dark-Sky City.

    Our mission is to pursue the study of astronomy, especially the study of our solar system and its evolution; to conduct pure research in astronomical phenomena; and to maintain quality public education and outreach programs to bring the results of astronomical research to the general public.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:15 am on September 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Call for TMT Instrumentation White Papers, , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From TMT: “TMT begins investigating the ideas for future instruments” 

    Thirty Meter Telescope Banner

    Thirty Meter Telescope
    Thirty Meter Telescope

    Call for TMT Instrumentation White Papers

    The Thirty Meter Telescope Project, in concert with its Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), announces a call for white papers proposing design studies for new instruments, adaptive optics systems, or other technical developments that would significantly enhance the scientific capability of TMT beyond first-light.

    Individuals and teams comprising members of the TMT scientific/engineering community are invited to submit white papers.

    The proposed project should be placed in the context of the first-light TMT capabilities, which include the near-IR multi-conjugate adaptive optics system (NFIRAOS; overview, detailed description), the InfraRed Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS; overview, brief description), the Wide-Field Optical Spectrograph (WFOS; brief description) and the capabilities of other current and future observatories (e.g., JWST, TESS, EUCLID, LSST, WFIRST, and other ELTs) in the post-2025 era.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    NASA/TESS

    ESA/Euclid spacecraft

    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    NASA/WFIRST


    White papers may address capabilities previously identified as priorities for TMT, which include high-dispersion optical spectroscopy, high-dispersion near-IR spectroscopy, multiplexed medium-resolution near-IR spectroscopy (presently considered for the IRMS instrument*; overview, brief description), extreme/high contrast adaptive optics/coronagraphy, mid-IR imaging and low-resolution spectroscopy, and high-dispersion mid-IR spectroscopy. However, the SAC welcomes submissions addressing novel areas or those which fall outside or between the existing scientific instrument requirements (TMT Observatory Requirements Document, Science Requirements Document).

    In September, 2017, TMT will initiate a design study for an adaptive secondary mirror (AM2) which may be available during TMT’s early light. The AM2 would facilitate Ground Layer Adaptive Optics (AO enhanced image quality for wavelengths 0.4-2.5 microns) over a large fraction of the unvignetted telescope field of view (15 arcmin diameter). The AM2 would also enable diffraction-limited images at mid-IR wavelengths (3.3-27 microns), and thus would likely serve as the facility mid-IR AO system. Instrument concepts that would benefit from this capability, as well as those that would operate behind the NFIRAOS AO system (or a future NFIRAOS upgrade), are encouraged.

    All white papers will be reviewed by the SAC, who will recommend a subset for feasibility study funding by the TMT Project. Submitted white papers should provide a summary of the scientific goals and objectives of the proposed instrument development, a suggested instrument architecture, a brief description of the scope of work to be done to further develop the science case and study the instrument feasibility, a list of science and engineering team members, and should address the suitability of the proposal team for conducting the study. Innovative technologies may be highlighted. This is the first part of the process for identifying and developing the 2nd generation instruments.

    White papers should be no more than 10 pages in length, including figures and tables, and should be submitted to whitepapers@tmt.org.

    It is anticipated that SAC reviews of all submitted white papers will be completed during the second quarter of calendar year 2018. The SAC may request additional information from proposed study teams prior to completion of the reviews.

    Please address any questions to whitepapers@tmt.org.

    See the full article here .

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    Near the center of Pasadena, California, a team of scientists, engineers, and project specialists is busily planning and designing what eventually will become the most advanced and powerful optical telescope on Earth. When completed later this decade, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will enable astronomers to study objects in our own solar system and stars throughout our Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies, and forming galaxies at the very edge of the observable Universe, near the beginning of time.
    Partners
    The Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy
    California Institute of Technology
    Department of Science and Technology of India
    The National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC)
    National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
    University of California

     
  • richardmitnick 1:39 pm on September 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , FOLO- Friends of Lick Observatory, , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, UCO - University of California Observatories,   

    From UCSC: “UC Santa Cruz hosts international workshop for Thirty Meter Telescope” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    September 01, 2017
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    1
    The TMT Future Leaders Workshop brought together graduate students and postdocs from Canada, China, India, Japan, UC, and Caltech. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

    An international training program for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project brought more than 40 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to UC Santa Cruz in August for an eight-day scientific and technical workshop.

    TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, proposed for Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Workshop participants, representing all of the TMT International Observatory’s partners (Canada, China, India, Japan, UC, and Caltech), worked on projects in small teams, visited astronomical laboratory facilities, toured Lick Observatory, and met with numerous scientists and engineers involved in TMT.

    Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California

    At a symposium on August 25, TMT project manager Gary Sanders gave the group an overview of the work now under way around the globe as progress on TMT moves through the final design and production phases for various components of the telescope and its instruments.

    “We’re very far along. A lot of work is going on globally in a big and powerful international collaboration,” Sanders said.

    The TMT Future Leaders Workshop was organized and led by the Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators (ISEE) at UC Santa Cruz. ISEE director Lisa Hunter said the workshop emphasized international collaboration and provided many opportunities for participants to apply what they learned by working in teams to propose solutions to problems currently being tackled by TMT. The intention is to train TMT’s future scientific and technical leaders.

    2
    The workshop emphasized international collaboration, project management, and other professional skills, with the intention of training TMT’s future scientific and technical leaders. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

    “We want to prepare these early-career scientists and engineers to do team science in cross-cultural collaborations,” Hunter said. “There are huge challenges in coordinating a large international project like TMT, and we hope this workshop will help stimulate collaborations across the partnership.”

    3
    The UCSC Laboratory for Adaptive Optics was among the facilities toured by workshop participants. (Photo by Austin Barnes)

    Workforce development

    ISEE has a long history of working with major telescopes on education and workforce development programs. The institute got its start as part of the Center for Adaptive Optics at UC Santa Cruz and has been working with telescopes in Hawaii since 2002 and with TMT since 2009.

    In Hawaii, ISEE is best known for the Akamai Workforce Initiative, which provides internships, mentoring, and support for college students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Telescopes face special challenges in creating a local workforce due to their remote sites and need for highly trained workers. Akamai prepares local college students for jobs in telescope operations and contributes to the regional workforce by supporting students across a broad range of STEM fields.

    TMT is currently the major funder of the Akamai program, which has provided more than 350 internships to students from Hawaii. More than a quarter of the participants are native Hawaiian, and more than 140 Akamai alumni are now working in scientific and technical jobs in Hawaii.

    Maunakea in Hawaii was chosen in 2009 as the preferred site to build and operate TMT, but in 2015 the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state’s permitting process was flawed. While proceedings to re-obtain the required permit move forward in Hawaii, TMT has also investigated alternative sites and last year chose a site in La Palma, on the Canary Islands, as the alternate site for TMT.

    “We are working on two options,” Sanders said. “Maunakea is still the preferred site, but we are also working hard in the Canary Islands. Meanwhile, most of the project continues to move forward.”

    New opportunities

    When completed, TMT will provide new observational opportunities in essentially every field of astronomy and astrophysics. Its 30-meter primary mirror, composed of 492 hexagonal segments, will have nine times the light-collecting area of today’s largest optical telescopes, allowing TMT to reach further and see more clearly than previous telescopes by a factor of 10 to 100 depending on the observation.

    The segmented-mirror design, pioneered on the 10-meter Keck telescopes, was conceived by the late Jerry Nelson, a professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and TMT project scientist, who died in June. Sanders paid homage to Nelson at the symposium, as did UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal in his opening remarks.

    “His work empowered astronomers throughout the UC system and helped put us where we are today,” Blumenthal said.

    The light collected by TMT’s enormous primary mirror will be directed to a sophisticated adaptive optics system and a powerful suite of scientific instruments located around the telescope. The three “first-light” instruments to be deployed when the telescope begins operations—two infrared spectrometers and one optical spectrometer—will provide unparalleled science and imaging capabilities. Work on the Wide-Field Optical Spectrometer (WFOS) is being led from UC Santa Cruz by principal investigator Kevin Bundy, one of many TMT collaborators who met with the workshop participants.

    The TMT Future Leaders Workshop was sponsored by TMT and co-sponsored by University of California Observatories (UCO). It is part of an International Training Program ISEE is developing in collaboration with the TMT Workforce, Education, Public Outreach, and Communication (WEPOC) committee.

    See the full article here .

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    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    1
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    5
    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

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    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:38 pm on August 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , G2- star or gas cloud? Settled it is a star, , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From Quanta: “Black-Hole Hunter Takes Aim at Einstein” 

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    July 27, 2017
    Joshua Sokol

    1
    Andrea Ghez at the W.M. Keck Observatory Headquarters in Waimea, Hawaii. John Hook for Quanta Magazine.

    If you cast an observational lasso into the center of the Milky Way galaxy and pull it closed, you will find a dense, dark lump: a mass totaling some four million suns, crammed into a space no wider than twice Pluto’s orbit in our solar system.

    In recent years, astronomers have come to agree that inside this region is a supermassive black hole, and that similar black holes lurk at the cores of nearly all other galaxies as well. And for those revelations, they give a lot of credit to Andrea Ghez.

    Since 1995, Ghez, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Los Angeles, has used the W.M. Keck telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii to see fine details at the center of the galaxy. The observations that Ghez has made of stars racing around the Milky Way’s core (alongside those of rival Reinhard Genzel, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany) have proven to most astronomers that the central object can be nothing but a black hole. But to be able to see these fine details, Ghez had to become a pioneering user of adaptive optics, a technology that measures distortions in the atmosphere and then adjusts the telescope in real time to cancel out those fluctuations. The technique produces images that look as if they were taken under the calmest possible skies.

    In Ghez’s mind, new discoveries require that scientists take risks. “If you have a new idea, the thing you are going to encounter first and foremost is ‘no, you can’t do it,’” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times in the course of this project I have been told ‘this won’t work.’” Her first proposal to image the galactic center was turned down; two decades later, Ghez, now 52, has received a MacArthur Fellowship, among other awards, and was the first woman to receive a Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

    2
    3
    Ghez maps the movements of stars around the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center. John Hook for Quanta Magazine.

    The supermassive black hole has been identified, but her explorations are far from over. Theories of galactic evolution suggest that the Milky Way’s center should have lots of old stars and almost no young stars. Observations show the opposite. Ghez’s group is also tracking a mysterious, glowing infrared blob called G2 that skimmed past the black hole in 2014. And now, using their decades-long data set, her team has begun testing whether the stars orbiting the black hole move according to the rules of Einstein’s general relativity or are subject to exotic deviations from theory.

    Quanta caught up with Ghez to hear about these projects and her plans. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

    You use new telescope technology to address deep theoretical questions. Which one comes first for you: observation or theory?

    I think that’s a great question about creativity and discovery. Like, how do you figure out your next project? For me, what floats my boat the most is to figure out new ways of seeing things; to reveal puzzles. What makes me happiest is when observations don’t make sense. And in order for observations to not make sense in a new way — in other words to not be doing incremental work — you need to be looking in a way that’s different.

    Your team and Reinhard Genzel’s group disagreed about how to interpret the observations of G2.

    4
    An image from W. M. Keck Observatory near infrared data shows that G2 survived its closest approach to the black hole and continues happily on its orbit. The green circle just to its right depicts the location of the invisible supermassive black hole. Credit: Andrea Ghez, Gunther Witzel/UCLA Galactic Center Group/W. M. Keck Observatory. Universe Today.

    They thought it was a gas cloud; your group suggested it was a star. Can you walk us through what happened when it passed the black hole in 2014?

    I was pretty convinced that you could explain this object with a model in which you said the object was actually intrinsically a star. One of the key determinants of whether it was a pure gas cloud or a star was whether or not it survived closest approach in 2014. It happily survived.

    The interpretation that I am most intrigued by is the idea that you are seeing an object that began its life as a binary star. And if you put very close binaries near a black hole, it turns out to induce what’s known as a three-body interaction, and the binary can merge. So black holes can drive binaries to merge more quickly than they would anywhere else in our galaxy. You end up with an object that has the characteristics of what we are looking at.

    It also explains some of the unusual observations of the center of the galaxy. We see many young stars at the center of the galaxy that are hard to explain. It turns out that when binaries merge, it’s like resetting the clock; you get a rebirth of a star, so to speak. So it will create an excess of apparently young stars really close to the black hole, and that’s exactly what we see.

    And then after we got very excited about this whole business of binaries, the detection [of gravitational waves from a black-hole merger] happened. In fact, if you take this scenario that we’re developing, where G2 at the galactic center is a binary, it actually gives a mechanism for very naturally explaining these events.

    You’re referring to the fact that the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) found black holes of around 30 times the mass of the sun, which is heavier than astronomers expected?


    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation


    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project


    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    If you took two stellar-mass black holes that are the mass that we anticipated, which is 10 times the mass of the sun rather than the 30 that is being observed, and put them near a supermassive black hole, then the two would merge to become a 20 solar mass black hole. And if you do this successively you can work your way up to the 30 solar mass number.

    Again, we always start with what’s simple, and then the observations often lay out a more complicated picture. But today, the standard picture is that most if not all galaxies harbor supermassive black holes, so if you think they can play an important role in terms of driving binary stars to merge, then you need to think about that in terms of understanding LIGO. So I think G2 has this really interesting connection — potentially, let me really emphasize potential, as this just an idea we’re playing with — but it has a lot of nice attributes of being very consistent with what we know today about the universe and the center of our galaxy specifically.

    By which you mean the young stars in the galactic center, and the LIGO observations?

    Right. There’s a third mystery that may be a bit of a stretch. We anticipate that the population of old stars should be greater near the black hole. And yet we actually don’t see that. There are all sorts of different explanations, from all different camps, but one camp is that the old stars that you are looking at have envelopes that are a little fluffy. If you think that binary stars are being driven to merge, before they merge the binaries might strip these old stars of their outer envelopes. That would make them fainter than you expect them to be, so the lack of old stars might just be an observational outcome of this binary process. Again — when you line up all your mysteries, you have to ask, well, what’s the missing element? What am I not seeing?

    You have started testing general relativity around the supermassive black hole, and you haven’t found any deviations yet from Einstein’s predictions. What are your plans for this project?

    In 2018, the star that is the strongest probe of the gravity around the black hole, S02, will make its next closest approach. And it will be the first time we have enough of a handle on its orbit for that closest passage to probe the laws of gravity. In the space of a month or so its velocity will change by more than 6,000 kilometers per second. That’s what will enable us to test general relativity.

    Speaking of improvements in technology, you were until recently on the science advisory committee of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), which is expected to be the world’s most powerful ground-based telescope.

    TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, proposed for Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    The observatory was planned for Mauna Kea, but the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement considers that mountain a sacred place and is opposing the project. Spain’s Canary Islands have been chosen as a backup location. If TMT doesn’t go up on Mauna Kea, how does that affect your studies of the galactic center?

    Oh, you know, that’s such a can of worms. Let me tell you a side story before we get into this more political stuff.

    Today, all these weird phenomena that we see — like G2, and the young stars where there should be none, and not enough old stars — you’re really only looking at the brightest stars. So, in order to truly understand the population, you really need to see the typical star, because most stars are low mass or faint. So as we improve our technology both in terms of adaptive optics and going to larger telescopes, it allows you to see a typical star like the sun.

    In addition, not only would better resolution let you probe gravity with better measurements of the stellar orbits, but you can increase your understanding of how black holes impact the evolution of a galaxy. And this effect is a key parameter of all cosmological models. You want to be able to see not just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the stellar population.

    OK, so then let’s tackle this TMT story. I was on the TMT science advisory committee for, I don’t know, 13 years. The thing that is important is that you get a site where adaptive optics works really well. That means that you want a very smooth airflow over the site where your telescope is at; you want to be on a mountain that is surrounded by a body of water. So you always see observatories near water. Hawaii is surrounded by water, and the Canary Islands are surrounded by water, as opposed to having just water on one side. That makes for much smoother airflows. So I think that the alternative site has some interesting characteristics. Without being — can you tell my angst about talking about this?

    Yes, sorry to put you on the spot. But I had to, because it’s very interesting.

    It’s a very interesting story that goes so far beyond science. If it were only a scientific decision, today, Mauna Kea would be my preference. It’s what we chose, so we chose it for a reason. It’s a great site from the point of view of performance of adaptive optics. From my biased perspective, it’s also farther south, so it’s easier to see the center of the galaxy. But one has to be totally respectful of the cultural issues associated with Mauna Kea. It’s one thing to be an astronomer over on the mainland thinking and looking at this, but when you go over there, you understand that it’s a much more complex issue.

    I hope for the sake of science, and also for the sake of bringing science and technology to the state of Hawaii, that this project can continue. But it has to continue in a way that works for all the players. And I think the issues have risen far above the issues of astronomy.

    See the full article here .

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    Formerly known as Simons Science News, Quanta Magazine is an editorially independent online publication launched by the Simons Foundation to enhance public understanding of science. Why Quanta? Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Our goal is to “illuminate science.” At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. All of our articles are meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:42 pm on May 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Roque de los Muchachos in La Palma the Canary Islands - the back up site, TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From Nature: “Canada weighs scientific consequences of moving a mega-telescope’ 

    Nature Mag
    Nature

    30 May 2017
    Alexandra Witze

    1
    Existing telescopes atop Mauna Kea take advantage of the mountain’s world-class astronomical observing conditions. Babak Tafreshi/NGC

    Is second-best good enough? That’s the question Canadian astronomers will confront this week as they analyze how relocating the planned Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) could affect their science plans.

    TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, proposed for Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    A study looking at the consequences of such a move, which researchers will present on 31 May at a meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society in Edmonton, finds that they’ll still be able to do most of what they want to do — but not everything.

    Legal challenges to the construction of the TMT on the Hawaiian mountain of Mauna Kea meant the international collaboration behind the facility had to consider an alternate site. But less than ideal observing conditions at their back-up site could keep scientists from pursuing what is likely to be one of the hottest topics in astronomy in the coming decade: investigating exoplanet atmospheres.

    The mega-telescope is “a critical component of the Canadian astronomical landscape,” says Michael Balogh, an astronomer at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The country — one of six major international partners — has committed CAN$243 million (US$180 million) to the project. “If we have to move, it’s effectively a de-scope in the project,” says Balogh.
    A long, hard look

    The back-up site, Roque de los Muchachos in La Palma, the Canary Islands, is lower in elevation than Mauna Kea, and its skies are more turbulent than those above the Hawaii mountain.

    Isaac Newton Group telescopes, at Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain

    That means that observing conditions are not quite as good; in particular, the extra atmosphere above La Palma interferes with much of the observing in mid-infrared wavelengths of light, the sweet spot for looking at exoplanet atmospheres.

    See the full article here .

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    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:03 pm on March 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope,   

    From Universe Today- “Rise of the Super Telescopes: The Thirty Meter Telescope” 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    7 Mar 2017
    Evan Gough


    TMT

    The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is being built by an international group of countries and institutions, like a lot of Super Telescopes are. In fact, they’re proud of pointing out that the international consortium behind the TMT represents almost half of the world’s population; China, India, the USA, Japan, and Canada. The project needs that many partners to absorb the cost; an estimated $1.5 billion.

    The heart of any of the world’s Super Telescopes is the primary mirror, and the TMT is no different. The primary mirror for the TMT is, obviously, 30 meters in diameter. It’s a segmented design consisting of 492 smaller mirrors, each one a 1.4 meter hexagon.

    The light collecting capability of the TMT will be 10 times that of the Keck Telescope, and more than 144 times that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

    But the TMT is more than just an enormous ‘light bucket.’ It also excels with other capabilities that define a super telescope’s effectiveness. One of those is what’s called diffraction-limited spatial resolution (DLSR).

    2
    An illustration of the segmented primary mirror of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Image Courtesy TMT International Observatory

    When a telescope is pointed at distant objects that appear close together, the light from both can scatter enough to make the two objects appear as one. Diffraction-limited spatial resolution means that when a ‘scope is observing a star or other object, none of the light from that object is scattered by defects in the telescope. The TMT will more easily distinguish objects that are close to each other. When it comes to DLSR, the TMT will exceed the Keck by a factor of 3, and will exceed the Hubble by a factor of 10 at some wavelengths.

    Crucial to the function of large, segmented mirrors like the TMT is active optics. By controlling the shape and position of each segment, active optics allows the primary mirror to compensate for changes in wind, temperature, or mechanical stress on the telescope. Without active optics, and its sister technology adaptive optics, which compensates for atmospheric disturbance, any telescope larger than about 8 meters would not function properly.

    The TMT will operate in the near-ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared wavelengths. It will be smaller than the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which will have a 39 meter primary mirror. The E-ELT will operate in the optical and infrared wavelengths.


    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile

    The world’s Super Telescopes are behemoths. Not just in the size of their mirrors, but in their mass. The TMT’s moving mass will be about 1,420 tonnes. Moving the TMT quickly is part of the design of the TMT, because it must respond quickly when something like a supernova is spotted. The detailed science case calls for the TMT to acquire a new target within 5 to 10 minutes.

    This requires a complex computer system to coordinate the science instruments, the mirrors, the active optics, and the adaptive optics. This was one of the initial challenges of the TMT project. It will allow the TMT to respond to transient phenomena like supernovae when spotted by other telescopes like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.



    LSST/Camera, built at SLAC

    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    The Science

    The TMT will investigate most of the important questions in astronomy and cosmology today. Here’s an overview of major topics that the TMT will address:

    The Nature of Dark Matter
    The Physics of Extreme Objects like Neutron Stars
    Early galaxies and Cosmic Reionization
    Galaxy Formation
    Super-Massive Black Holes
    Exploration of the Milky Way and Nearby Galaxies
    The Birth and Early Lives of Stars and Planets
    Time Domain Science: Supernovae and Gamma Ray Bursts
    Exo-planets
    Our Solar System

    This is a comprehensive list of topics, to be sure. It leaves very little out, and is a testament to the power and effectiveness of the TMT.

    The raw power of the TMT is not in question. Once in operation it will advance our understanding of the Universe on multiple fronts. But the actual location of the TMT could still be in question.

    Where Will the TMT Be Built?

    The original location for the TMT was Mauna Kea, the 4,200 meter summit in Hawaii. Mauna Kea is an excellent location, and is the home of several telescopes, most notably the Keck Observatory, the Gemini Telescope, the Subaru Telescope, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. Mauna Kea is also the site of the westernmost antenna of the Very Long Baseline Array.

    3
    The top of Mauna Kea is a prime site for telescopes, as shown in this image. Image Courtesy Mauna Kea Observatories

    The dispute between some of the Hawaiian people and the TMT has been well-documented elsewhere, but the basic complaint about the TMT is that the top of Mauna Kea is sacred land, and they would like the TMT to be built elsewhere.

    The organizations behind the TMT would still like it to be built at Mauna Kea, and a legal process is unfolding around the dispute. During that process, they identified several possible alternate sites for the telescope, including La Palma in the Canary Islands. Universe Today contacted TMT Observatory Scientist Christophe Dumas, PhD., about the possible relocation of the TMT to another site.

    Dr. Dumas told us that “Mauna Kea remains the preferred location for the TMT because of its superb observing conditions, and because of the synergy with other TMT partner facilities already present on the mountain. Its very high elevation of almost 14,000 feet makes it the premier astronomical site in the northern hemisphere. The sky above Mauna Kea is very stable, which allows very sharp images to be obtained. It has also excellent transparency, low light pollution and stable cold temperatures that improves sensitivity for observations in the infrared.”

    The preferred secondary site at La Palma is home to over 10 other telescopes, but would relocation to the Canary Islands affect the science done by the TMT? Dr. Dumas says that the Canary Islands site is excellent as well, with similar atmospheric characteristics to Mauna Kea, including stability, transparency, darkness, and fraction of clear-nights.

    4
    The Gran Telescopio Canarias (Great Canary Telescope) is the largest ‘scope currently at La Palma. At 10m diameter, it would be dwarfed by the TMT. Image: By Pachango – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6880933

    As Dr. Dumas explains, “La Palma is at a lower elevation site and on average warmer than Mauna Kea. These two factors will reduce TMT sensitivity at some wavelengths in the infrared region of the spectrum.”

    Dr. Dumas told Universe Today that this reduced sensitivity in the infrared can be overcome somewhat by scheduling different observing tasks. “This specific issue can be partly mitigated by implementing an adaptive scheduling of TMT observations, to match the execution of the most demanding infrared programs with the best atmospheric conditions above La Palma.”

    Court Proceedings End

    On March 3rd, 44 days of court hearings into the TMT wrapped up. In that time, 71 people testified for and against the TMT being constructed on Mauna Kea. Those against the telescope say that the site is sacred land and shouldn’t have any more telescope construction on it. Those for the TMT spoke in favor of the science that the TMT will deliver to everyone, and the education opportunities it will provide to Hawaiians.

    Though construction has been delayed, and people have gone to court to have the project stopped, it seems like the TMT will definitely be built—somewhere. The funding is in place, the design is finalized, and manufacturing of the components is underway. The delays mean that the TMT’s first light is still uncertain, but once we get there, the TMT will be another game-changer, just like the world’s other Super Telescopes.

    See the full article here .

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