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  • richardmitnick 10:02 pm on July 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Billion-Dollar Telescope Race", , , , ESO ELT, , , , , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From Nautilus (US) : “The Billion-Dollar Telescope Race” 

    From Nautilus (US)

    March 13, 2014 [Re-issued 7.7.21]
    Mark Anderson

    How three groups are competing to make the first extremely large telescope.

    When Warner Brothers animators wanted to include cutting-edge astronomy in a 1952 Bugs Bunny cartoon [1] they set a scene at an observatory that looks like Palomar Observatory in California.

    The then-newly unveiled Hale Telescope, stationed at Palomar, had a 5-meter-diameter mirror, the world’s largest. In 1989, when cartoonist Bill Watterson included a mention of the world’s largest telescope in a “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoon,[2] he again set the action at Palomar. Although computers had grown a million times faster during those 38 years, and eight different particle colliders had been built and competed for their field’s top ranking, astronomy’s king of the hill stayed perched on its throne.

    This changed in 1992, with the introduction of the Keck telescope and its compound, 10-meter mirror.

    About a dozen 8-10 meter telescopes have been built since, e.g.

    But it has been more than 20 years since this last quantum leap in telescope technology. Now, finally, the next generation is coming. Three telescopes are on their way, and the race among them has already begun.

    Three new observatories are on the drawing boards, all with diameters, or apertures,[3] between 25 and 40 meters, and all with estimated first light being collected in 2022: the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT, headquartered in Pasadena, Calif.); the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT, also in Pasadena); and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT, headquartered in Garching, Germany). At stake are the mapping of asteroids, dwarf planets, and planetary moons in our solar system; imaging whole planetary systems; observing close-in the Goliathan black hole at the Milky Way’s core; discovering the detailed laws governing star and galaxy formation; and taking baby pictures of the farthest objects in the early universe.

    Thanks to these telescopes, astronomy is poised to reinvent itself over the next few decades. Renown and glory, headlines and prestige, and perhaps a few Nobel Prizes too, will go to those astronomers that first reveal a bit of new cosmic machinery. Surprisingly, the story of this race will be written, not just in the technical specifications and design breakthroughs of the instruments themselves, but also in the organizational approaches that each team has taken. The horse race is a unique window both into technology, and into the process of science itself.

    In the 50 years following its 1949 construction, the telescope that came closest to beating the performance of the Palomar Observatory was the Bolshoi Teleskop Alt-azimutalnyi (BTA-6), a Soviet telescope that used a 6-meter mirror and was christened in 1975.

    1
    BTA-6 [Большой Телескоп Альт-азимутальный] Large Altazimuth Telescope, a 6-metre (20 ft) aperture optical telescope at the Special Astrophysical Observatory located in the Zelenchuksky District on the north side of the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia.

    But the BTA-6 only proved how difficult it is to build and operate single-mirror telescopes larger than 5 meters. Its mirror was so elephantine that it cracked under its own weight, and the heat from the light it collected destabilized its sensitive optics. As a result, for productive astronomical observatories, Palomar remained the world’s most powerful until 1992, when the 10-meter W.M. Keck Observatory telescope in Hawaii first opened its eyes.

    Keck’s history began with a single American physicist called Jerry Nelson, an upstart scientist at the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In 1977, conventional wisdom held that a 10-meter instrument, just as subject to gravity’s warp as BTA-6, was extremely impractical if not downright impossible. Nelson’s innovation was not to rely on one mirror but rather on a honeycomb-like structure of small, hexagonal mirror segments. Each flexible and lightweight mirror would be independently mounted and had its own curvature unique to its placement in the array. A mirror in the center would be curved upward on all six sides. A mirror placed off-axis to the right would curve down on its left edges and up on its right. The sum total structure of hexagonal mirrors would be a meta-mirror that behaved exactly like a curved single mirror.

    Nelson’s design was made more complex by the fact that as the telescope’s body rotated, each mirror needed to be adjusted on the fly by arrays of computerized screws and flywheels that nudged the mirrors so as to compensate for gravity’s pull [Active Optics].

    “I remember when Jerry Nelson used to give these talks,” says Michael Bolte, TMT member and astronomy professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz (US). “Everybody thought he was completely nuts. They thought, if you get out in the real world where the wind blows and gravity vectors change and humidity changes, surely this would never work.” Even today, astronomers’ skepticism seems well warranted. To operate a 10-meter telescope using Nelson’s design required continual monitoring and adjustment of each mirror segment’s position to within a few billionths of a meter.

    On top of that, Keck later implemented the further innovation of using another array of computers to monitor minute disturbances in the atmosphere above the telescope. Then an additional, deformable mirror down the line could compensate for the tiny thermal wiggles that the atmosphere introduces to a star’s image.

    In other words, Nelson hoped to design a telescope that could “subtract” off the influence of the earth’s atmosphere, all but launching his instrument into space without ever lifting it off the ground. (Such adaptive optics are being used in all three next-generation telescope projects.)

    No wonder, then, that many leading astronomers in the 1980s and early 1990s had written off Nelson’s scheme. A 1993 Los Angeles Times profile of Nelson, for instance, quotes an anonymous source it describes as “one of the nation’s top telescope designers.” The anonymous source rated Nelson an “arrogant fool” and predicted that the W.M. Keck Observatory’s $200 million price tag would ultimately just be money down the drain.

    Yet when in 1992 the Keck telescope—followed by its cousin Keck II in 1996—instead delivered on its designers’ promise of ushering in a new era of 10-meter class astronomy, other observatories around the world were caught by surprise.

    “These problems you’d been working on your whole career, after one night on Keck, you’d have all the data you’d need,” Bolte says. “We were actually unpopular with much of the world. And there were many people who, when we started thinking about a 30-meter telescope, swore they’d never get ‘Keck’ed again.”

    The history of the Keck design continues to color the field. One of the three teams, TMT, has directly inherited Keck’s design and many of its team members, including Nelson. TMT will also share mountaintop space with Keck, on the dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. Its new design is an extension of Keck’s segmented hexagonal mirror to the 30-meter scale. TMT’s Bolte adds, with not more than the tiniest amount of relish, that the competing E-ELT team developed a similar plan to the TMT/Keck’s, even without any legacy or institutional inertia pushing it toward one telescope design or another.

    “I don’t want to sound like I’m criticizing anybody here,” he says. “But I think if you were really going to design a telescope from scratch, a 25 to 30 meter telescope, you’d almost certainly pick the TMT design over the GMT design. That is, small segments with very tiny gaps. As evidence for that, the Europeans could have done whatever they wanted. They had a clean slate… They did the cost benefit analysis and concluded that a telescope very much like the TMT was the way to build.”

    In fact, TMT and E-ELT’s mirror segments are exactly the same size scale, 1.44 meters. (They’re not interchangeable, though, as each mirror has a different curve and warp.) Asked why his team picked the same mirror component size as TMT, Tim de Zeeuw, [then] director general of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), noted that “there is … no formal intention to collaborate on the production of segments, but since the sizes are the same it is however also not impossible.” The TMT will use its 492 hexagonal mirrors to create an effective 30-meter aperture. E-ELT, to be sited on a mountaintop observatory in the Atacama Desert near Antofagasta, Chile, will use 798 hexagonal mirror segments to create an effective telescope size of 39 meters.

    The GMT telescope, by contrast, uses seven circular 8.4-meter mirrors that all reflect into a central convex mirror suspended above the primary mirror. The seven-mirror structure, to be situated on a mountaintop observatory near La Serena, Chile, together create a meta-mirror with a resolving power equivalent to that of a 24.5 meter single-mirror telescope. The segments (of which [then] one has been completed and two more are being manufactured) use a lightweight honeycomb design that overcomes the 6-meter limit that BTA-6 famously encountered. The University of Arizona (US), a GMT partner institution, is making the mirrors in its U Arizona Steward Observatory Mirror Lab (US), located beneath the university’s football stadium.

    “Completing the first mirror segment was a very significant milestone for us,” says Charles Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US) and member of the GMT board. “It has a very complicated shape, since it’s an off-axis segment it’s not symmetrical about its center. And it’s being polished to an accuracy of 19 nanometers. So it is the best large optical surface ever created in human history.”

    Roger Angel,[1] professor of astronomy and optics at the University of Arizona, was the GMT’s chief architect and intellectual forebear. Alcock notes that although Keck was the first 10-meter class telescope, there are other telescopes—including the Magellan Telescopes in Chile (distinct from the Giant Magellan Telescope) and the Multiple Mirror Telescope and Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona—that do not use the Keck design.

    “The TMT is a direct successor to the Kecks, but with 492 segments, up from 36, it is a significantly different design,” Alcock says. “The GMT design … has as much heritage as—arguably more than—the TMT design.”

    With so much hard science in the balance, one might think that the varying designs of the three competing telescopes would decide which is first past the post. But there is a more prosaic aspect to the competition: Securing partners. This boils down to a kind of musical chairs of international corporations, institutes, and national organizations. “Everybody in our world knows who the potential partners are,” says Alcock. “If we’re talking with somebody, you just know that TMT has probably had some contact with them. I think it’s unlikely that any individual potential partner would join both projects. It’s high stakes in that regard.”

    “The GMT realized very early on that they needed to find some more partners to fund their telescope, so we were all running around the world doing the same thing,” says TMT’s Bolte. “We’d show up at the airport in Beijing just as somebody from the E-ELT was leaving. Or we’d run into [GMT leader] Wendy Friedman in the airport in Tokyo. We were all talking up our projects to all of these countries. I don’t know for sure how they made their choices. But I’m really pleased that we got some of the major players to select our project given the choice of all three.”

    A major win for TMT was China, a country whose economic size and scientific stature meant that each telescope’s officials watched its courtship maneuvers closely. China had considered making its own 30-meter class telescope, but the country doesn’t have mountaintop sites that boast the astronomically perfect conditions of the dry Chilean mountains or the Mauna Kea summit. Shude Mao of the National Astronomical Observatories of China at Chinese Academy of Sciences [中国科学院](CN) in Beijing now sits on the TMT board. He says Keck’s impressive track record was an important factor in swaying the world’s second-largest economy toward TMT.

    China’s decision also reveals the different kinds of organizational structures at play in each of the three competing teams. The E-ELT has a European model of national-level cooperation. Joining the E-ELT requires membership in the European Southern Observatory [Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte] (EU) (CL) and a pledge of a small fixed percentage of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) toward the ESO budget. This would have made membership expensive for China, whose GDP in 2013 was $9 trillion.

    Both GMT and TMT have a trim and more corporate American-style organization that is part institutional, part national partnerships. GMT was less attractive to China, however, because it mandates cash contributions. By contrast, Mao says, 70 percent of China’s contribution to TMT in its earliest stages can be “in kind.” This means China may be required to manufacture and then donate a spectrometer or a certain number of the TMT’s 492 mirror segments. But China could then also do this work in-country, stimulating its own industries. “That is extremely important to us,” Mao says.

    By contrast, says Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University (AU), GMT downplays in kind contributions for a good reason. Schmidt, a Nobel Laureate astronomer and a leader in GMT’s effort to sign on Australia, explains that GMT awards its contracts only on the basis of scientific and technical merit. It plays no favorites in awarding its work orders. “It’s a real minimalist structure that’s focused on really getting the thing done,” Schmidt says of the GMT organization.

    Other big countrywide “gets” round out the early tally. As of early 2014, these have been Brazil signing on to ESO (and thus E-ELT), although this still requires ratification by the Brazilian Parliament; South Korea and Australia putting their weight behind GMT; and China, India, and Japan backing TMT.

    The resulting three-way race, as ESO public information officer Richard Hook describes it, is a kind of portmanteau of cooperation and competition. “You could call the situation ‘Co-opetition,’ ” he says.

    For each of the three telescope projects, much of the industrial work and projected completion dates are well-guarded trade secrets. All three telescopes’ websites leave the exact projected date of their completion unknown, expressing the likelihood that each will be completed and conducting actual science by 2022. But each community clearly has a common goal in mind: to be first.

    “I’m really hoping we’re still going to be first,” Bolte says of TMT. “We would have liked to have started building this telescope five years ago. I think technically we were ready to do that. What we didn’t have is our partnerships put together.”

    Says ESO’s Hook of his group’s E-ELT, “Yes, the scientific community that we serve is of course keen to be first.” But he goes on to add, “It is certainly possible to overstate the level of competition. All three will be general-purpose telescopes with long lives. They are not focused on one result.”

    In fact, every official from the three telescopes that Nautilus spoke to for this story was careful to couch their assessments of the competition in collegial terms. More than once it was expressed that they didn’t want to appear sniping or derogatory toward telescopes that, in all likelihood, will be as much collaborators as rivals. No one seemed to want to provide justifiable cause for bad blood. But that each team is also in a race to the finish was plainly obvious.

    Regardless of the winner among the three teams, should all three telescopes be built—and no expert consulted for this story predicted any other outcome—they will likely surge astronomy ahead unlike any time in modern memory. The only precedent within the professional lifetimes of astronomers working today would be Keck’s launch in 1993. Just what new windows on the universe this trio of extraordinary scientific instruments may open remains anyone’s guess.

    “Our experience with previous generations of telescopes is that people do carry out the science programs that led them to build the telescopes,” says Alcock. “But frequently the most exciting science is something that nobody was thinking about. Something entirely unanticipated.”

    Footnotes

    1. The last scene of this 1952 Bugs Bunny cartoon featured an observatory that looked a suspicious amount like the Palomar Observatory in California.

    2. In this 1989 comic, Calvin, disguised as “Stupendous Man,” visits Palomar Observatory.

    3. For more information on the lenses used in telescopes, visit Starizonia.

    See the full article here .

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    Welcome to Nautilus (US). We are delighted you joined us. We are here to tell you about science and its endless connections to our lives. Each month we choose a single topic. And each Thursday we publish a new chapter on that topic online. Each issue combines the sciences, culture and philosophy into a single story told by the world’s leading thinkers and writers. We follow the story wherever it leads us. Read our essays, investigative reports, and blogs. Fiction, too. Take in our games, videos, and graphic stories. Stop in for a minute, or an hour. Nautilus lets science spill over its usual borders. We are science, connected.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:09 pm on March 14, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , The future of Optical/Infrared astrononomy in the U.S., TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From The New York Times: “American Astronomy’s Future Goes on Trial in Washington” 

    From The New York Times

    March 13, 2020
    Dennis Overbye

    As competition with Europe heats up, astronomers pitch their dreams of giant telescopes astride the Earth.

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    Construction underway of the Giant Magellan Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in the Atacama Desert of Chile.Credit…Giant Magellan Telescope

    GMT

    Giant Magellan Telescope, 21 meters, 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

    Recently, in what amounted to a kind of cosmic Supreme Court hearing, two giant telescope projects pleaded for their lives before a committee charged with charting the future of American astronomy.

    Either of the telescopes — the Thirty Meter Telescope, slated for the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, and the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile — would be roughly three times larger and 10 times more powerful than anything now on Earth. Working in concert, they could tackle deep questions about the cosmos.

    TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, proposed and now approved for Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level, the only giant 30 meter class telescope for the Northern hemisphere

    But they are hundreds of millions of dollars short of the money needed to build them.

    Failure to build them, American astronomers say, would cede dominion over the skies to Europe, which is building its own behemoth observatory in Chile, and which will be available only to European researchers.

    ESO/E-ELT, 39 meter telescope 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 prospective builders fear an echo of a moment in the late 20th century when scientists in the United States lost ground in particle physics to European researchers, and never really recovered in producing path-making discoveries in that field.

    54 mile Superconducting Super Collider map, a particle accelerator complex under construction in the vicinity of Waxahachie, Texas, cancelled in 1993 by the U.S. Congress for having no immediate economic benefits.

    “Europe is utterly indifferent to what the U.S. does,” said Matt Mountain, in a rousing introduction to the hearing, which was held in a low-ceilinged, windowless conference room on the ground floor of a National Academy of Sciences building here. Dr. Mountain is president of American Universities for Research in Astronomy, which manages observatories for the government.

    To add to the potential pain, he reminded the gathering, the European telescope will be ready in the late 2020s, at least three years before any American counterpart. That timing will allow Europe to draw even more scientific benefit from intervening projects like the James Webb Space Telescope, slated to launch next year, and the Vera Rubin Observatory, a smaller telescope in Chile.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Vera C. Rubin Observatory 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.

    These will merely act as “finder-scopes” for the European Extremely Large Telescope, as it is called, Dr. Mountain noted, spotting phenomena that the larger telescope can then investigate and exploit.

    “They are laying down a gauntlet to the U.S. community,” he said. “How will the U.S. community respond?”

    The U.S. community was present in the form of a dozen astronomers who were sitting around an open square table that took up most of the conference room. They were the Panel on Optical and Infrared Observatories from the Ground, part of a larger effort known as the Decadal Survey, convened by the National Academy of Sciences every 10 years to set priorities for astronomy and give advice to the government on where to spend money.

    Tim Heckman, a tall Johns Hopkins astronomer with a shock of white hair who is chair of the panel, sat at one end of the table, leading the questioning.

    3
    Kimo Leong, of Waianae, Hawaii, right, and other demonstrators against the Thirty Meter Telescope in Honolulu in July.Credit…Craig T. Kojima/Honolulu Star-Advertiser, via Associated Press

    Over the course of the afternoon, astronomers from the two telescope projects took turns filing into the room to pitch their telescope dreams in a flurry of slide presentations, followed by questions from the panelists.

    Dr. Mountain said that for the projects’ staffs, the hearings are like a lobster trap: “They have to get through this if they want to go to the next stage.”

    This was the first and last chance the astronomers would have to plead their cases in public; the remainder of the year will be given to closed-door meetings and peer-reviewed reports, concluding next year in final recommendations for space- and ground-based astronomy.

    A blessing by the academy of either or both telescope projects could open the door to money from the National Science Foundation, which has traditionally supported astronomy in the United States, but has yet to contribute to either endeavor.

    David Charbonneau, a young, bushy-bearded astronomer from Harvard who asked many of the toughest questions, described the discussion as collegial and frank. “The astronomers were as candid as they could be,” he said.

    Both telescopes are the dream products of cumbersome international collaborations anchored by U.S. universities or observatories. The Thirty Meter Telescope, named for the diameter of its primary light-gathering mirror, is borne of a joint effort of the California Institute of Technology and the University of California. The Giant Magellan would have an effective diameter of 25 meters; it is headquartered in Pasadena near the Carnegie Observatories, one of the founding members of the collaboration. By comparison, the upcoming European telescope is 39 meters in diameter, roughly the size of a basketball court.

    The Thirty Meter Telescope, TMT for short, is not popular among some Hawaiians. Upset about the exploitation and degradation of the mountain, they have blocked construction crews from accessing Mauna Kea. The collaboration, now known officially as the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory, has threatened to move to an alternate site in the Canary Islands. They haven’t done it yet: Mauna Kea is still a better site, they say.

    “We were asked by you if our software was going to be late,” Gary Sanders, project manager for the telescope, said to the panelists at one point. “It’s not late.”

    The telescope is “shovel ready, just not shovel accessible,” he added.

    The testimony provided a rare look at the financial and managerial details of these ambitious projects, revealing that they will be more expensive than advertised over the last 20 years of development and promotion. The Thirty Meter Telescope collaboration has long floated a cost estimate of $1.4 billion. The figures released Tuesday put the cost at about $2.4 billion. The latest price tag for the Giant Magellan is now about $2 billion.

    Under the deal being promoted by Dr. Mountain and his colleagues, about a third of the cost — $850 million for each telescope — would be provided by the National Science Foundation.

    As a result, the National Science Foundation would own one-third of the observing time on these telescopes, and would make it available to all American astronomers.

    “We want people to come together to tackle big questions,” said Patrick McCarthy, director of the National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory in Tucson, Ariz. His institution, with Dr. Mountain’s, brokered a deal between the two giant projects, formerly bitter competitors, to join forces as they seek enough money to be born.

    In his own testimony, Tommaso Treu, an astronomer at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a member of the TMT project, ticked off some of the questions that “the power of 2” — two telescopes — could address: Are we alone? What is the universe made of?

    Even if the European telescope beats the American telescopes to the sky, plenty of science remains to be done: “They’re not going to clean out astronomy in three years,” Dr. Treu said.

    When the discussion began, some panelists questioned whether there was enough money in the proposed operating budget to run the telescopes once they had been built. New telescopes usually need new instruments every few years as astronomers develop sharper and more ambitious ideas about what to do with the light they have so painstakingly collected from afar. Each new tool can cost $50 million or more.

    “In a platform for innovation, I don’t want to put down an empty plate,” Dr. Charbonneau said.

    Under questioning, the telescope collaborations also had to admit that they had not raised all the money needed to pay their own shares of the telescopes.

    “How do we make a plan that closes?” Dr. Heckmann asked.

    Dr. Charbonneau went on to address one of the elephants in the room: What if the Mauna Kea site was not feasible in the end, and the Thirty Meter observatory had to move to the Canary Islands? Were all the partners in the collaboration, which includes Canada, India, Japan [Japan has bowed out on the TMT] and China in addition to Caltech and the University of California, still committed?

    Dr. Sanders punted to Edward Stone, executive director of the Thirty Meter collaboration and an astrophysicist at Caltech. “The agreement is for Mauna Kea,” Dr. Stone said quietly. “Each member would have to agree to go to La Palma,” he said.

    He added, “We’re not there yet.” Some of the partners were already willing to move the telescope, he said, but others wanted to wait and see what happened in Hawaii.

    In January, a bill was introduced into both houses of Hawaii’s Legislature that would establish a reconciliation commission to mediate between protesters and the state. Its sponsors hope to “decouple” the dispute of Mauna Kea from broader conflicts over issues such as housing, education, health care and the preservation of Hawaiian culture, which linger from the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 and its territory’s subsequent annexation by the United States. According to Dr. Stone, “quiet conversations” were being held with state leaders, telescope opponents and astronomers.

    If the talks fail, Dr. Stone added, “I’m sure the partners will agree to go to La Palma.”

    The La Palma site is lower in altitude than Mauna Kea, making it less desirable for observing some types of cosmic infrared radiation, but Dr. Sanders declared that the science they needed could be done from both sites: “Mauna Kea is a better site, and we want to go there.”

    A final decision, Dr. Sanders added, was a few months away.

    Dr. Sanders told the panel that he once had been a project scientist for the Superconducting Super Collider, which was canceled by Congress in 1993 and superseded by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, which in 2012 discovered the long-sought Higgs boson. High-energy physics in the United States has never been the same.

    “We are definitely second rate,” he said. “I mourn the kinds of things we could have done.”

    The panelists adjourned without tipping their hands.

    “Thank you for your frank responses,” Dr. Heckman said in conclusion. “It’s a big challenge. We understand that.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:20 am on March 8, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "An Open Letter to Telescope Protesters in Hawaii", , , , , , , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From Nautilus: “An Open Letter to Telescope Protesters in Hawaii” 

    From Nautilus

    March 5, 2020
    Dana Mackenzie

    1
    Nautilus

    Why Astronomy on Mauna Kea is not a desecration but a duty.

    On July 15, 2019, after a court decision had cleared the way for astronomers to build a new mega-telescope, called the Thirty Meter Telescope, on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, a large group of protesters said, “No.” Pitching their camp directly on the access road to the top of Mauna Kea, the protesters, who called themselves kia’i mauna (protectors of the mountain), pledged to stop any construction vehicles from passing. The kia’i argue that the mountain is sacred to the native Hawaiian people, and that the construction of the TMT would desecrate it.

    When I heard about the protest I was torn apart, because I felt forced to choose between my two favorite ohanas (families). Though I am not an astronomer, I have been a science writer for 23 years and a mathematician before that, so I am part of the larger science ohana. Likewise, I have been a hula dancer for 15 years. Hula is simply a way of telling a story, and men have been part of that folk tradition from the beginning. Dancing with my hula sisters (and occasionally brothers) has taught me to admire the Hawaiian culture, especially their reverence for their land.

    The kia’i have always said that their complaint is not against science, and I take them at their word. Nevertheless, if you are protesting something it is important to know what you are protesting against. I believe that they have missed one crucial fact about the TMT within the context of Hawaiian culture. The astronomers, likewise, have failed to explain the telescope’s value to native Hawaiians in spiritual terms, rather than its value to science or the economy. I hope to bridge that communication gap. In this article I will speak for both of my families, using “we” to mean both astronomers and hula dancers, depending on the context.

    Dear kia’i mauna,

    I greet you in the name of Wakea, the sky god who created the Hawaiian islands and the mountain on which you stand. As you have said many times, Mauna Kea is only a contraction of its full name, Mauna a Wakea—or Wakea’s mountain.

    For our readers on the mainland, who may not have followed the drama on Mauna Kea closely, I would like to begin by celebrating some of your accomplishments. First and foremost among these, you have introduced the world to the concept of kapu aloha. This is a code that requires the protesters to maintain proper (pono) and respectful behavior at all times, without anger. Your adherence to this code has prevented any violence aside from the first week, when the police arrested some of your leaders. Your movement follows in the exemplary lineage of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. I consider kapu aloha to be spiritually identical with Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha, which means “truth power.” Likewise, telling the truth is at the heart of kapu aloha.

    You have also inspired and connected with indigenous people and their sympathizers around the world. As a student of hula, I could feel the joy in your tent when you chanted the oli and danced the hula in praise of the mountain, the waters, and the people who are defending their beliefs. When you came to my town of Santa Cruz, California, in November, you invited Valentin Lopez of the local Amah Mutsun tribe to speak, and he said, “We [indigenous people] are the only people with the moral authority to speak for this land.” These kinds of conflicts have arisen before. The Tohono O’odham Nation protested the VERITAS gamma ray detector on Kitt Peak in Arizona, and the San Carlos Apache opposed several telescopes on Mt. Graham, also in Arizona.

    CfA/VERITAS, a major ground-based gamma-ray observatory with an array of four Čerenkov Telescopes for gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV – TeV energy range. Located at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory,Mount Hopkins, Arizona, US in AZ, USA, Altitude 2,606 m (8,550 ft)

    U Arizona Submillimeter Telescope located on Mt. Graham near Safford, Arizona, USA, Altitude 3,191 m (10,469 ft)

    Both tribes succeeded at delaying, preventing, or relocating these telescopes. Of course, the use of sacred lands is only one of the many challenges facing indigenous peoples. But I believe that protests related to sacred lands have been especially effective, precisely because they force American society to confront and acknowledge your deepest values as a people.

    That brings me to your third accomplishment: You are changing the culture of Astronomy. It is no accident that we always want to put telescopes on mountaintops, and these mountains are usually sacred to somebody. We are not entitled to build there. We need to ask permission, humbly. And asking permission means accepting that the answer might be “no.” This is where the TMT board failed. They thought that once they held a hearing and received a permit, their job was done. We need to learn that hearings are not the same as listening, and a permit is not the same as permission.

    3
    EYE OF THE STORM: The Thirty Meter Telescope, seen here in an artist rendering, would be the largest visible-light telescope in the Northern Hemisphere, allowing astronomers to explore exoplanets and the formation of stars and galaxies. Mauna Kea is an ideal site for capturing sharp images, scientists say, because Hawaii’s atmosphere is calm, cool, and often free of clouds and weather.TMT International Observatory.

    I now come to the more difficult part of this letter, in which I tell you that the kia’i, too, have overlooked something. You are much more like the astronomers than you realize. Both of you, native Hawaiians and astronomers, learn by careful observation (maka’ala). You are kia’i mauna, watchers of the mountain. They are kia’i o na hoku, watchers of the stars. Each of you needs the other. Separately, you are out of balance. The kia’i mauna focus on their responsibility to their land and are blind (alas) to the epochal changes going on in our knowledge of the stars. The kia’i o na hoku focus on their quest to understand the skies, and forget sometimes their responsibility to the earth and its inhabitants. The two of you need each other and always will, and for that reason this drama cannot end with the victory of one side over the other. The only end is reconciliation, which can only come through dialogue conducted in the spirit of aloha.

    I mentioned above the new things we are learning about the stars. Let me explain what I mean. Beginning in the mid-1990s, astronomers found ways to indirectly detect exoplanets, or planets orbiting other stars. We recognize them either through the wobble they create in their parent stars’ orbits, or through the slight dimming of the star when the planet passes in front. We cannot yet see these exoplanets directly, because we do not have telescopes that are powerful enough. That is what the Thirty Meter Telescope is for. More than that, the TMT would give us the ability to probe those planets’ atmospheres and look for oxygen. If we find that, it will be a sign to us: “Here is life.”

    According to Hawaiian legend, in the early days of creation, the gods spoke with man through the kahunas, and man spoke with the gods. The gods are still speaking to man, but in a different way than before. One thing we are learning from them is that our sky father, Wakea, was much busier than we thought. He created millions of other worlds. And on some of these planets, the most favored ones, he may have created other living beings.

    We do not know what form they may have. They may be nothing more than one-celled organisms. We do not even have scientific proof that they exist, in part because we do not have the TMT yet. But I feel sure that there are some among you, dear kia’i, who know in your gut—in your na’au—that life does exist out there in the cosmos. If you know this, then you must know also that they are your family. They are your cousins just as surely as the taro plant, Wakea’s firstborn child, is your brother.

    When you propose to shut down the TMT, you are proposing that we should shut our eyes to our own family. Your own family. This has nothing to do with being for or against science. It is not pono. It violates what I have learned about Hawaiian culture, that ohana comes first.

    As you know, the astronomers have a plan B, to build the telescope in the Canary Islands. Gordon Squires, vice president for external affairs of the TMT, tells me that the effect will be to make the science take twice as long, because there are about half as many nights with good seeing on the Canary Islands. Still, the universe can wait. The one-celled organisms will still be there even if we take twice as long to find them.

    I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about you, native Hawaiians. What will be the effect on you when you abandon your kuleana, your responsibility to Wakea? He brought you to this island and made you stewards of this unique mountain, the mountain you named after him. Mauna Kea is the umbilical cord joining earth to the stars. It is a place that Wakea has designated for looking up as well as for looking down. He could not entrust this place to anyone else. He had to choose gatekeepers who could look in both directions: a caretaking people who valued their connection to the earth, and a voyaging people who valued their connection to the stars. He would not want you to succeed in only half of your mission.

    Suppose that, by the power of kapu aloha and the grace of the gods, you agree that my words are true. What then would I ask you to do? I would ask for only one change at first, small but profound. Over and over, the kia’i have referred to the TMT as a “desecration” of the sacred mountain. It is not, and the word should not be uttered again. Instead I ask you to acknowledge that the observatory will consecrate a small part of the mountain to a purpose intended by your own gods. Your mission is not to oppose this consecration, but to make sure that it is done right. Be pono, and make sure that the astronomers are pono too.

    What do I mean by “doing it right”? A long list of things, some of which may not be easy. First, there should be native Hawaiian astronomers. Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of the East Asian Observatory, says that there are currently no native Hawaiian astronomers at any of the 13 telescopes on the mountain.

    Mauna Kea Observatory Hawaii USA

    This is a scandal. Though there are many native Hawaiian engineers doing outstanding work on the mountain, it is the astronomers who provide the vision, and they cannot fulfill their job without native Hawaiian eyes.

    When I call for native Hawaiian astronomers, it is of course the responsibility of the astronomy community, but it is also your responsibility. Brialyn Onodera, a native Hawaiian engineer who works at one of the telescopes on Maui, wrote in the Honolulu Civil Beat that the protests have created a climate in which “telescope” has become a dirty word. (She is not the only one saying this; I have interviewed others.)

    You, the kia’i, can reverse this message. You can teach native Hawaiian children that astronomy is a sacred responsibility (or kuleana) that has been given to your people. Teach your children that there are two types of astronomy, just as there are two types of hula. We have kahiko, done in the ancient style with no instruments except chanting and drums, and we have ‘auana, done in the modern style, with Western music and instruments. No one protests against hula ‘auana, or calls it a desecration. We all recognize that it is another valid expression of what it means to be Hawaiian. Likewise, you can encourage some of your children to become kahiko astronomers, practicing the ancient methods of navigation, while others become ‘auana astronomers, fulfilling their kuleana with the best instruments that Western science can devise. Both of these missions should be treated with equal respect.

    Should you reverse your opposition to the TMT, a cause that some of you have given 10 years of your life to? I leave this choice to your own conscience. In any case, there is other work to be done. The Master Lease awarding management of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve to the University of Hawaii will expire in 2033. It seems to me that any decision about individual facilities should wait until the issue of who will manage the mountain next is resolved. The kia’i deserve a place at the table, and I hope you will take it. You have earned the power to say no, but you have also earned something greater: the power to say yes.

    This voyage of discovery, this quest to reunite the family of Wakea, will not be a short one. It will not end when TMT is built, or not built. It will not end when the Master Lease is renewed, or not renewed. The quest will last for centuries. All that we are asking, all that the gods are asking, and all that your children are asking, is for you to join us. At the helm, where you have always been.

    In the spirit of kapu aloha,

    See the full article here .

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    Welcome to Nautilus. We are delighted you joined us. We are here to tell you about science and its endless connections to our lives. Each month we choose a single topic. And each Thursday we publish a new chapter on that topic online. Each issue combines the sciences, culture and philosophy into a single story told by the world’s leading thinkers and writers. We follow the story wherever it leads us. Read our essays, investigative reports, and blogs. Fiction, too. Take in our games, videos, and graphic stories. Stop in for a minute, or an hour. Nautilus lets science spill over its usual borders. We are science, connected.

     
  • 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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    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: , , , , , , 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.

     
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