The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources has given the official green light for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the summit of Mauna Kea, home to many of the world's premier astronomical observatories. TMT—which will be the world's largest ground-based telescope when it begins operations in 2022—will shed light on fundamental questions about the characteristics of exoplanets, the birth of stars and galaxies, and the composition and expansion of the universe, among other elusive cosmic mysteries.
The TMT project was conceived more than a decade ago by a group of astronomers at Caltech and other institutes as the logical follow-up to the W. M. Keck Observatory, arguably the most prominent and productive ground-based observatory in astronomy today.
Since the TMT project's inception, Caltech—in collaboration with the University of California and other partners, and with major funding provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation—has been a core partner and has played a vital role in "defining the scientific objectives and technical capabilities, designing the observatory and its first-light instruments, and building the international partnership that is at the heart of this Pacific Rim observatory," says Tom Soifer, chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. "I am very happy that we've made it this far," Soifer adds. "Having been part of the building of Keck and its first science, I know the thrill of building and commissioning a new, state-of-the-art astronomy facility. I look forward to celebrating the first light of TMT in the future."
Written by Kathy Svitil