Biggest telescope project likely to shift out of Hawaii

Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project will be moving out of Hawaii as it faces resistance from indigenous groups

By: IANS | Published:November 2, 2016 7:06 pm
Thirty meter telescope, worlds largest telescope, biggest telescope, hawaii, canary island, international observatory, new telescope, worlds biggest telescope, science, science news TMT International Observatory Board of Governors met last week to discuss the progress of TMT in Hawaii (Image Source: tmt.org)

With the construction of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), one of the world’s biggest telescope projects, in Hawaii facing resistance from indigenous groups, the project’s board has identified a site in the Canary Islands, Spain, as the primary alternative.

The TMT International Observatory Board of Governors met last week to discuss the progress of TMT in Hawaii and to consider potential alternate sites. Hanle in Ladakh is also among one of the potential alternate sites for the project.

“The TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Governors has explored a number of alternative sites for TMT. Every site we considered would enable TMT’s core science programmes,” Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT International Observatory Board, said in a statement this week.

“After careful deliberation, the Board of Governors has identified Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain as the primary alternative to Hawaii,” Yang said.

Indigenous groups in Hawaii consider the proposed Mauna Kea site as sacred. The construction work had to be stalled due to revocation of permit by orders of the Supreme Court of Hawaii.

“Mauna Kea continues to be the preferred choice for the location of the Thirty Meter Telescope, and the TIO Board will continue intensive efforts to gain approval for TMT in Hawaii,” Yang said.

Scientists believe that TMT will open up opportunities for revolutionary discoveries in essentially every field of astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology.

Enabled by a giant mirror and advanced adaptive optics system, TMT will see much fainter objects much more clearly than existing telescopes, according to a key TMT document known as the Detailed Science Case.

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With these capabilities, TMT’s science agenda fills all of space and time, from nearby comets and asteroids, to exoplanets, to the most distant galaxies, and back to the very first sources of light in the universe, it said.

“Hanle site has lower seeing values of 0.9-1.2 arc sec as compared to the alternate sites in Chile and Canary Islands of Spain (La Palma) which have seeing values of 0.55 arc sec. Thus, scientifically, Hanle has less advantageous characteristics for hosting a mega telescope like the TMT in comparison to the other alternate sites,” India’s Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement on August 12 this year.