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  • 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   


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    From NOAO

    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/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated


    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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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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

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

    Lowell Observatory bloc

    Lowell Observatory

    Atro Alerts Lowell Observatory

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

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

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

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

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

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 A previous construction permit was rescinded because proper court procedures had not been followed.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

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

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

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

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

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




    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:


    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


    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.


    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.
    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

    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.

    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.”

    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
    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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

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

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

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    July 27, 2017
    Joshua Sokol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

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

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

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

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    See the full article here .

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

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

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

    Nature Mag

    30 May 2017
    Alexandra Witze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    See the full article here .

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

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

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


    Universe Today

    7 Mar 2017
    Evan Gough


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    LSST/Camera, built at SLAC

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

    The Science

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

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

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

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

    Where Will the TMT Be Built?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Court Proceedings End

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

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

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:38 am on October 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From NYT: “Under Hawaii’s Starriest Skies, a Fight Over Sacred Ground” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    OCT. 3, 2016

    A panorama of the Milky Way from Mauna Kea, Hawaii. From left, University of Hawaii 2.2 Meter Telescope, Mauna Kea Summit, Kilauea Volcano under cloud cover and Mauna Loa. Credit Joe Marquez

    MAUNA KEA, Hawaii — Little lives up here except whispering hopes and a little bug called Wekiu.

    Three miles above the Pacific, you are above almost half the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere and every step hurts. A few minutes in the sun will fry your skin. Brains and fingers go numb. At night, the stars are so close they seem tangled in your hair.

    Two years ago, this mountaintop was the scene of a cosmic traffic jam: honking horns, vans and trucks full of astronomers, V.I.P.s, journalists, businesspeople, politicians, protesters and police — all snarled at a roadblock just short of the summit.

    Abandoning their cars, some of the visitors started to hike up the hill toward what would have been a groundbreaking for the biggest and most expensive stargazing machinery ever built in the Northern Hemisphere: the Thirty Meter Telescope, 14 years and $1.4 billion in the making.

    They were assembling on a plateau just below the summit, when Joshua Mangauil, better known by his Hawaiian name of Lanakila, then 27, barged onto the scene. Resplendent in a tapa cloth, beads, a red loin cloth, his jet black hair in a long Mohawk, he had hiked over the volcano’s cinder cones barefoot.

    “Like snakes you are. Vile snakes,” he yelled. “We gave all of our aloha to you guys, and you slithered past us like snakes.”

    “For what? For your greed to look into the sky? You guys can’t take care of this place.”

    Access mp4 video here .

    No ground was broken that day or since.

    To astronomers, the Thirty Meter Telescope would be a next-generation tool to spy on planets around other stars or to peer into the cores of ancient galaxies, with an eye sharper and more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, another landmark in humanity’s quest to understand its origins.

    But to its opponents, the telescope would be yet another eyesore despoiling an ancient sacred landscape, a gigantic 18-story colossus joining the 13 telescopes already on Mauna Kea.

    Later this month, proponents and opponents of the giant telescope will face off in a hotel room in the nearby city of Hilo for the start of hearings that will lead to a decision on whether the telescope can be legally erected on the mountain.

    A panorama of a sunset over Mauna Kea observatory, home to more than a dozen telescopes. From left, the 8-meter Subaru (Japan), the twin 10-meter Keck I and II (California) and the 3-meter NASA Infrared Telescope Facility. Credit Babak Tafreshi/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

    Over the years, some have portrayed this fight as a struggle between superstition and science. Others view the telescope as another symbol of how Hawaiians have been unfairly treated since Congress annexed the islands — illegally in the eyes of many — in 1898. And still others believe it will bring technology and economic development to an impoverished island.

    “This is a very simple case about land use,” Kealoha Pisciotta, a former telescope operator on Mauna Kea who has been one of the leaders of a group fighting telescope development on the mountain for the last decade. “It’s not science versus religion. We’re not the church. You’re not Galileo.”

    Hanging in the balance is perhaps the best stargazing site on Earth. “Mauna Kea is the flagship of American and international astronomy,” said Doug Simons, the director of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea. “We are on the precipice of losing this cornerstone of U.S. prestige.”

    CFHT Telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    CFHT Telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Big Glass Dreams

    The road to the stars once ended in California at Palomar Mountain, whose 200-inch-diameter telescope was long considered the size limit. The bigger a telescope mirror is, the more light it can capture and the fainter and farther it can see — out in space, back in time.

    Caltech Palomar 200 inch Hale Telescope, at Mt Wilson, CA, USA
    Caltech Palomar 200 inch Hale Telescope, at Mt Wilson, CA, USA

    In the 1990s, however, astronomers learned how to build telescopes with thin mirrors that relied on computer-adjusted supports to keep them from sagging or warping.

    There was an explosion of telescope building that has culminated, for now, in plans for three giant billion-dollar telescopes: the European Extremely Large Telescope and the Giant Magellan, both in Chile, and the Thirty Meter Telescope.

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

    Giant Magellan Telescope, Las Campanas Observatory, to be built  some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile
    Giant Magellan Telescope, Las Campanas Observatory, to be built some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile

    Not only would they have a Brobdingnagian appetite for light, but they are designed to incorporate a new technology called adaptive optics, which can take the twinkle out of starlight by adjusting telescope mirrors to compensate for atmospheric turbulence.

    Richard Ellis, a British astronomer now at the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, recalled being optimistic in 1999 when he arrived at the California Institute of Technology to begin developing what became known as the Thirty Meter Telescope. “The stock market was booming,” he said. “Everything seemed possible.”

    Canada, India and Japan eventually joined the project, now officially known as the TMT International Observatory. It has been helped along by The Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation, formed by the founder of Intel, which has contributed advice and $180 million.

    The telescope, originally scheduled to be completed by 2024, is modeled on the revolutionary 10-meter-diameter Keck telescopes that Caltech and the University of California operate on Mauna Kea. Like them, it will have with a segmented mirror composed of small, hexagonal pieces of glass fitted together into an expanse wider than a tennis court.

    Who is Hawaiian, anyway? Very few Hawaiian citizens can claim full Hawaiian ancestry; many if not most are of mixed heritage. And there are…
    Bill Briggs 2 minutes ago

    I would think that the use of the mountain for scientific purposes could be thought of by the native population as a way for the ancestral…
    Richard 55 minutes ago

    Although not a native Hawaiian, I also consider Mauna Kea to be a sacred place, *because* of the telescopes that reside there. I believe it…

    There are only a few places on Earth that are dark, dry and calm enough to be fit for a billion-dollar telescope.

    Rising 33,000 feet from the seafloor, Mauna Kea is the second biggest mountain in the solar system – only Olympus Mons on Mars is greater. The dormant ancient volcano has been the center of Polynesian culture — the umbilical cord connecting Earth and sky — seemingly forever.

    The mountain is part of so-called “ceded lands” that originally belonged to the Hawaiian Kingdom and are now administered by the state for the benefit of Hawaiians.

    On its spare, merciless summit, craters and cinder cones of indefinable age keep company with a variety pack of architectural shapes housing telescopes.

    In 1968 the University of Hawaii took out a 65-year lease on 11,000 acres for a dollar a year. Some 500 acres of that are designated as a science preserve. It includes the ice age quarry from which stone tools were being cut a thousand years ago, and hundreds of shrines and burial grounds.

    The first telescope went up in 1970. Many rapidly followed.

    Places like Mauna Kea are “cradles of knowledge,” said Natalie Batalha, one of the leaders of NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting mission. “I am filled with reverence and humility every time I get to be physically present at a mountaintop observatory.”

    But some Hawaiians worried that knowledge was coming at too great a cost.

    “All those telescopes got put up with no thought beyond reviving the Hilo economy,” said Michael Bolte, an astronomer from the University of California, Santa Cruz, who serves on the TMT board.

    “Not a lot of thought was given to culture issues.”

    Some native Hawaiians complained that their beloved mountain had grown “pimples,” and that the telescope development had interfered with cultural and religious practices that are protected by state law.

    A panorama of Mauna Kea and the nonoptical telescopes on the mountain. From left, Caltech Submillimeter Observatory; James Clerk Maxwell Telescope; and the Submillimeter Array, consisting of several 6-meter dishes. Credit Babak Tafreshi/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

    Construction trash sometimes rolled down the mountain, said Nelson Ho, a photographer and Sierra Club leader who complained to the university. “They wouldn’t listen,” he said. “They just kept playing king of the mountain.”

    An audit by the State of Hawaii in 1998 scolded the university for failing to protect the mountain and its natural and cultural resources. An environmental impact study performed by NASA in 2007 similarly concluded that 30 years of astronomy had caused “significant, substantial and adverse” harm to Mauna Kea.

    A Step Back for NASA

    The tide began to shift in 2001 when NASA announced a plan to add six small telescopes called outriggers to the Keck complex. The outriggers would be used in concert with the big telescopes as interferometers to test ideas a for a future space mission dedicated to looking for planets around other stars.

    Ms. Pisciotta led a band of environmentalists and cultural practitioners who went to court to stop NASA. The group included the Hawaiian chapter of the Sierra Club and the Royal Order of Kamehameha, devoted to restoring the Kingdom of Hawaii.

    Ms. Pisciotta said she had once dreamed of being a cosmologist but lacked the requisite math skills and instead took a night job operating a radio telescope on Mauna Kea. She became disenchanted when a family shrine disappeared from the summit and the plans for the outriggers impinged on a cinder cone.

    “Cinder cones are burial sites. It’s time to not let this go on,” she said. The group prepared for court by reading popular books about trials.

    In 2007, Hawaii’s third district court found the management plan for the outriggers was flawed and revoked the building permit.

    “NASA packed up and left,” Ms. Pisciotta said.

    Encountering Aloha

    The prospective builders of the TMT knew they had their work cut out for them.

    In 2007, the Moore Foundation hired Peter Adler, a consultant and sociologist, to look into the consequences of putting the telescope in Hawaii.

    Thirty Meter Telescope protesters walking on a road in 2015 during the first of many blockades that started at the Mauna Kea visitors center, stopping TMT construction vehicles from driving to the summit of the mountain. Credit Hollyn Johnson/Hawaii Tribune-Herald, via Associated Press .

    “Should TMT decide to pursue a Mauna Kea site,” his report warned, “it will inherit the anger, fear and great mistrust generated through previous telescope planning and siting failures and an accumulated disbelief that any additional projects, especially a physically imposing one like the TMT, can be done properly.”

    The astronomers picked a telescope site that was less anthropologically sensitive, on a plateau below the summit with no monuments or other obvious structures on it. They agreed to pay $1 million a year, a fifth of which would go to the state’s Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the rest to stewardship of the mountain.

    Quietly, they also pledged another $2 million a year toward science and technology education and work force development on the island of Hawaii. The Moore Foundation also put some $2 million into the Imiloa Astronomy Center, a museum and planetarium run by the University of Hawaii.

    Dr. Bolte, a mild-mannered U.C.S.C. professor with a soothing lilt to his voice, became one of the most visible promoters of the project in community meetings.

    He recalled going to a meeting in Hilo once where tensions were very high. Afterward, he said, he was afraid to go out to his car.

    Sure enough, a crowd rushed him when he got there. “What kind of astronomy do you do?” they asked eagerly.

    “The aloha spirit really exists,” Dr. Bolte said.

    “Exploring the universe is a wonderful thing humans do,” he added. Nevertheless, “there was a core we never won over.”

    “In retrospect, we might have underestimated the strength of the sovereignty movement.”

    The Hawaiian Renaissance

    In the years since the first telescopes went up on Mauna Kea, Hawaiian people and culture had experienced a resurgence of pride known as the Hawaiian Renaissance.

    In 1976, a band of Hawaiians sailed the outrigger canoe Hokulea from Hawaii to Tahiti. The feat showed how ancient Polynesians could have purposefully explored and colonized the Pacific, navigating the seas using only the sun, stars, ocean swells and wind.

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

    “And that was the first spark of shutting up everybody who said that we were inferior, that we were not intelligent,” Mr. Mangauil, the protester, said.

    In 1978, the state recognized Hawaiian, which once had been banned from schools, as an official language.

    With rising pride came — at least among some more vocal native Hawaiians — questions about whether the occupation and annexation of Hawaii by the United States in the 1890s was legal.

    Telescopes on a sacred mountain constitute a form of “colonial violence,” in the words of J. Kehaulani Kauanui, an anthropologist at Wesleyan University.

    Or as Robert Kirshner, a Harvard professor who is now also chief science officer at the Moore Foundation, put it, “The question in that case become not so much whether you did the environmental impact statement right, but whose island is it?”

    Having cut their teeth fighting the outrigger project, Ms. Pisciotta’s group, known informally as the Mauna Kea Hui, was prepared when the TMT Corporation formally selected the mountain for its site in 2009.

    Many Hawaiians welcomed the telescope project. At a permit hearing, Wallace Ishibashi Jr., whose family had an ancestral connection to Mauna Kea, compared the Thirty Meter’s mission to the search for aumakua, the ancestral origins of the universe.

    “Hawaiians,” he said, “have always been a creative and adaptive people.”

    Ms. Pisciotta and her friends argued among other things that an 18-story observatory, which would be the biggest structure on the whole island of Hawaii, did not fit in a conservation district.

    In a series of hearings in 2010 and 2011, the state land board approved a permit for the telescope but then stipulated that no construction could begin until a so-called contested case hearing, in which interested parties could present their arguments, was held.

    An ahu made of rocks at the base of the road that goes up to the visitors center on Mauna Kea. Credit Kent Nishimura

    The Walk of Fame

    The state won that hearing, and a groundbreaking ceremony was scheduled for Oct. 7, 2014.

    The groundbreaking was never intended to be a public event, said Bob McClaren, associate director of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, which is responsible for scientific activities on the mountain.

    “I thought it was reasonable to restrict access to those who were invited,” he said.

    Mr. Mangauil, who makes his living teaching hula dancing and Hawaiian culture, said later that he had wanted only to make the astronomers feel uncomfortable to be on the mountain and to get protesters’ signs in view of the television cameras.

    In an interview, he said he had nothing against science or astronomy, but did not want it on his mountain.

    “Our connection to the mountain is like, that’s our elder, the mother of our resources,” he said. “We’re talking about the wau akua, the realm of where the gods live.”

    There are no shrines on the very summit, he pointed out, which should be a lesson: Not even the most holy people are supposed to go there.

    Unable to get to the groundbreaking, the Hawaiians formed their own blockade. Tempers flared.

    “We were seeing the native Hawaiian movement flexing its muscles,” Dr. Bolte said.

    Seeing people hiking up the mountain past the port-o-potties, Mr. Mangauil stormed after them and wound up on the hood of a ranger truck, even more angry.

    Guarding the Mountain

    Lanakila’s barefoot run set the tone for two years of unrest and demonstrations.

    Protesters calling themselves Guardians of the Mountain set up a permanent vigil across the road from the Mauna Kea visitor center, stopping telescope construction crews and equipment from going up. Dozens were arrested.

    Gov. David Ige has tried to appease both sides. While saying that “we have in many ways failed the mountain,” he said the Thirty Meter Telescope should go forward, but at least three other telescopes would have to come down.

    Lanakila Mangauil poses for a portrait with the Hawaiian state flag draped on his shoulders, near Pu‘uhuluhulu hill on Mauna Kea. Credit Kent Nishimura

    Astronomers and business leaders grew frustrated that the state was not doing enough to keep the road open for construction trucks and workers.

    “The result of the faulty law enforcement surrounding Mauna Kea is fostering tension, aggression, racism and business uncertainty,” business organizations and the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce wrote to the governor. “Ambiguity surrounding the rule of law has prompted a poor economic climate.”

    Stopping trucks on the steep slope was dangerous, said Dr. Bolte, adding that “people were basically trapped at the summit.”

    Dr. Simons, the Canada-France-Hawaii director, grew increasingly worried about the effect of the protests on the astronomers, who became reluctant to be identified as observatory staffers.

    “It really tugged at us to see the staff going from being proud to scared in a matter of weeks,” he said.

    Meanwhile Ms. Pisciotta‘s coalition was plugging through the courts.

    On Dec. 2, the Hawaiian Supreme Court revoked the telescope building permit, ruling that the state had violated due process by handing out the permit before the contested case hearing.

    “Quite simply, the Board put the cart before the horse when it issued the permit,” the court wrote.

    Game of Domes

    By mid-December, Clarence Ching, another member of the opposition, stood in a crowd with other Hawaiians and watched trucks carrying equipment retreat from the mountain.

    “David had beaten Goliath,” he said. “We were even happy and sad at the same time — sad, for instance, that somebody had to lose — as we had fought hard and long.”

    The court’s decision set the stage for a new round of hearings, now scheduled to start in mid-October. The case, presided over by Riki May Amano, a retired judge appointed by the Land Board, is likely to last longer than the first round, which consumed seven days of hearings over a few weeks, partly because there are more parties this time around.

    Among them is the pro-telescope Hawaiian group called Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities or PUEO, who contend the benefits of the TMT to the community have been undersold.

    Whoever wins this fall’s contested case hearing, the decision is sure to be quickly appealed to the Hawaiian Supreme Court.

    In an interview, Edward Stone, a Caltech professor and vice president of the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory, the group that will build the telescope, set April 2018 as the deadline for beginning construction. Depending on how it goes in Hawaii or elsewhere, the telescope could be ready sometime in the last half of the next decade.

    “We need to start building this thing somewhere,” he said.

    “We still hope Hawaii will work,” he added. “What we need is a timely permit, and we need access to the mountain once we have a permit.”

    But there is no guarantee that even if the astronomers succeed in court they will prevail on the mountain. In an email exchange, J. Douglas Ing, lawyer for the TMT Observatory, said they were “cautiously optimistic” that local agencies would uphold the law, but the astronomers have also been investigating alternative sites in Mexico, Chile, India, China and the Canary Islands.

    “It’s wise of the TMT to be exploring other sites,” said Richard Wurdeman, the lawyer for the Mauna Kea Hui.

    I asked Ms. Pisciotta what would happen if the giant telescope finally wins.

    “It would be really hard for Hawaiian people to swallow that,” she said. “It’s always been our way to lift our prayers up to heaven and hope they hear us.”

    Dr. Bolte said he had learned to not make predictions about Hawaii.

    In a recent email, he recalled photographing a bunch of short-eared Hawaiian owls. “These are called pueo, and they are said to be the physical form of ancestor spirits,” Dr. Bolte recounted.

    Referring to the Hawaiian term for a wise elder, he said, “I had one kupuna tell me it was a great sign for TMT that so many pueo sought me out that trip, and another tell me it was a sign that we should leave the island immediately before a calamity falls on TMT.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:57 pm on September 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Big Island Has Too Much To Lose If TMT Leaves, , TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    For TMT From Honolulu CIVIL BEAT: “Big Island Has Too Much To Lose If TMT Leaves” 

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    Honolulu Civil Beat

    Ben Todd

    The proposal to build the Thirty Meter Telescope near the existing telescope complex at the top of Mauna Kea has gone from a project that has been in development for over 10 years, backed by a multinational effort, to one that was approved and broke ground, to one that is now bogged down by fierce opposition and negative court decisions.

    There is so much at stake in the outcome of this debate. I believe that Kealoha Pisciotta, the president of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, should decide to drop her group’s lawsuit seeking to block the granting of a building permit to the TMT group. I don’t suggest this lightly or flippantly, as if there is no debate to be had. In the best-case scenario, the Mauna Kea Anaina Hou’s lawsuit and general opposition may be the main factor in ensuring that everything about this project is done in the right way and in the best interests of the people of the Big Island.

    However, I don’t believe there is by any means a negative consensus among the Native Hawaiian community as to the moral and cultural implications of the project. The environmental concerns of the project are addressable and able to be overcome. Most importantly, we cannot lose sight of what the existing Big Island astronomy sector means to Hawaii and what we stand to lose by rejecting the TMT project.

    This debate very well may determine if Hawaii — and more specifically, the Big Island — will disappear as a world leader in astronomy or step forward as the undisputed center of the astronomy world.

    We should not see the TMT project as disrespectful to the Hawaiian culture because the endeavor is so noble, benefiting all mankind and allowing the Hawaiian people to shine. This project should be seen as an honor to the Hawaiian culture.

    It is true that some Native Hawaiians have expressed a negative view of the TMT project in terms of cultural respect. However, some Native Hawaiians see it differently, such as Keahi Warfield, leader of the Native Hawaiian group called Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities Inc.

    Warfield pointed out in a piece in May by Nancy Cook Lauer for Hawaii Tribune-Herald, “‘Even when land is considered sacred, that doesn’t mean people can’t use it,’ he said. PUEO’s members say telescopes atop Mauna Kea won’t diminish their culture because (the telescopes) provide youth of all cultures an opportunity to use modern-day tools to learn and explore their universe.”

    Even a former Hawaiian king shared a similar opinion. King Kalakaua is quoted from September 1874 in a Smithsonian article saying, “ ‘It will afford me unfeigned satisfaction if my kingdom can add its quota toward the successful accomplishment of the most important astronomical observation of the present century and assist, however humbly, the enlightened nations of the earth in these costly enterprises…’”

    If we can’t agree that serving as home to TMT is a full honor, maybe we can at least agree that it is not an egregious affront to Hawaiian culture and move on to discussing some environmental concerns that definitely do merit attention.

    We should assure with 100 percent certainty that the aquifer that has its origins near the proposed building site is incapable of sustaining contamination due to TMT activity. Opposition groups have a right to be concerned as the aquifer supplies clean water to the east side of the island, and Pisciotta has said a more robust study on the impact to the aquifer is called for.

    Although the concern is valid, there is no reason that this issue has to be one that stops the TMT from being built, as it represents an engineering problem that is completely solvable.

    A TMT spokesperson told Civil Beat, “… there’s no way that anything that goes into the ground near the planned telescope can get into the aquifer. ‘It can’t happen,’ [Sandra] Dawson said. ‘It’s a physical thing, it’s not an opinion thing.’ ” The TMT group also says that all wastewater will be physically taken off the mountain.

    Economic, Educational Opportunities

    The TMT group is convinced, then, the aquifer will be protected, though they have a vested interest in that opinion. But if there is any question as to the veracity of that claim, then we as a community should insist that a truly independent expert concurs or disagrees. Astronomy is too important to the Big Island to allow a solvable problem go unsolved and destroy the future of astronomy in that environment.

    Besides the problems of cultural perspective and environmental protection, there are the consequences of not building the TMT to consider, as well.

    We should move forward with the TMT project because we cannot afford to lose the economic and educational opportunities that come with it. Hawaii Island was the majority beneficiary in our state of the $168 million impact of the astronomy sector in 2012; that sector ranges in impact from one quarter to one half of other major economic sectors in Hawaii.

    The people of the Big Island already have very little in the way of native industry, and poverty is a significant issue. Similarly, the children of the Big Island have few educational and future job opportunities.

    TMT currently donates $1 million to science education on the Big Island, and the current observatories are conducting a workforce pipeline for K-12 students. These yearly economic impacts and educational opportunities only figure to increase with the addition of the world’s largest telescope, the TMT.

    Besides these tangible effects of not building the TMT, what about the effects of letting a minority group dictate policy that the majority does not agree with?

    We should not let the project be blocked, because the majority of Hawaii residents are in favor of the TMT. A recent statewide poll showed that 62 percent of Hawaii residents, including 59 percent of Big Island residents, are in favor of the TMT being built.

    We live in a society that generally accepts rule by majority opinion. This is, in fact, the underpinning principle of our society. We should honor that principle and not stand in the way of what the majority favor. If we lived in a society where a minority group continually dictated policy, it would undoubtedly lead to discontent, undermining our way of living.

    We must not lose site of the big picture amidst the TMT controversy. The issue of cultural respect can very much be seen as a matter of perspective. While I would clearly see something like building a McDonald’s in front of a graveyard as disrespectful, I think it is reasonable that we should see the TMT as something glorious and as representing the virtuous aspects of mankind, like a cathedral.

    While environmental concerns are valid and should be heard, they don’t represent a strong objection or one that cannot be properly addressed in this case. There is so much at stake for the Hawaiian people in the debate as to whether the Big Island community should allow the TMT project to proceed. We must preserve the precious economic and educational opportunities brought by the astronomy sector to the Big Island. We cannot afford to rip these opportunities out of the hands of the Big Island community and children.

    Indeed, as Günther Hasinger, director of the UH Institute for Astronomy puts it, “If the lease is not renewed, ‘it would be the end of astronomy in Hawaii as we know it…’” We should politely ask Pisciotta and the Mauna Kea Anaina Hou to drop their lawsuit against the TMT’s request for a building permit.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    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.
    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 5:19 am on June 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Test case for vacating approved permitting in US courts, TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope   

    From Hawaii News Now via TMT: “Judge will allow certain groups to participate in TMT contested case hearing” 

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    Hawaii News Now

    June 18th 2016
    Ben Gutierrez

    Retired Judge Riki May Amano on Friday approved requests by the Thirty Meter Telescope and the group Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities to be parties in the contested case hearing over the permit for the controversial telescope.

    Amano also approved 14 other groups and individuals who can file motions and call witnesses, and who are required to participate in any proceedings ahead of the hearing itself.

    Amano offered those who applied to be parties to be witnesses instead. Five applicants chose that option.

    There are now 24 parties involved in the hearing, including the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Mauna Kea Ainanahou, a group opposed to the $1.4 billion telescope and represented by attorney Richard Wurdeman.

    Those parties indicated that they would call upwards of 150 witnesses.

    Amano told the parties that with that number of witnesses, she expects the hearing to take three to four weeks. She said the hearings would be held on the Big Island.

    More than a hundred people jammed a small conference room at the Hilo State Office Building before Amani cleared the room because it was over capacity. Those who applied to be parties were then allowed back in. Any available seats left — about 40 — were then opened to the general public. The rest remained outside.

    Amano plans to have a pre-hearing conference to set dates for additional conferences and the hearing itself.

    Friday’s decision is another step toward the required repeat of the 2011 proceeding that was shot down in December by the Hawaii Supreme Court. The court ruled last year that the State Board of Land and Natural Resources should not have approved the permit for the project before all evidence was presented.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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.
    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

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