From the March 2015 issue

Web Extra: New eye opens up the skies

The Thirty Meter Telescope promises unprecedented views of the cosmos.
By | Published: March 30, 2015 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Thirty Meter Telescope
Thirty Meter Telescope
A groundbreaking and indigenous blessing ceremony was held on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea in October for the behemoth Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). When complete, the TMT’s primary mirror will be twice the width of a basketball court. Even the telescope’s secondary mirror will be 10 meters across, placing it among the largest mirrors currently in use. And despite the TMT’s incredible diameter, the mirror will be only about 2 inches (50 millimeters) thick and composed of 492 individual segments of glass.

The telescope builds on the design of the highly successful W. M. Keck Observatory, which sits nearby. If complete before the 39.3-meter European Extremely Large Telescope as planned, its incredible optics will make it the largest telescope in existence.

The TMT partner groups, which include the University of California, China, India, Japan, Canada, the California Institute of Technology, and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, expect to spend as much as $1.4 billion on construction. The U.S. might also buy in as a partner. Astronomers will use the TMT to gain unprecedented views of faint objects, like planets orbiting nearby stars and galaxies seen in the early universe.