Largest Telescope To Be Atop Hawaiian Volcano

There is a race to build the best and largest telescope for the next generation of stargazing. Among the front-runners are the ESA’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) and a multi-governmental project dubbed the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

With the United States providing land atop a Hawaiian volcano, Canada has recently announced that it will commit $243 million to the total expected price of $1.5 billion to build the largest telescope. While the ELT is expected to be the largest telescope overall, the TMT will be right in second place and will be the highest altitude telescope in the world.

It has also received significant funding from China, Japan, and India.

The official news came late last night from Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. The bulk of the money will be spent within Canadian borders. The country is known for its superb research and development, and companies are expected to build fiber optics and the steel enclosure that will house the largest telescope. The highest altitude telescope will need the protection from buffeting winds and the vagaries of Pacific storms, which will be a focal point for Canadian companies. For their contribution, astronomers will get a share in using the highest altitude and largest telescope once it is active.

The TMT is expect to search for a wide variety of stellar phenomenon such as dark matter, dark energy, and an exploration into the formation of the initial galaxies of the universe. It will also be used for exoplanet discovery and the ever elusive search for extraterrestrial life. At its center will be the primary mirror 98 feet in diameter with controls that allow the telescope to move between any two points in the sky in less than five minutes.

Once finished in 2023 or 2024, the TMT will have be able to see with precision that would knock Hubble off its feet. With multiple instruments ranging from a wide field optical spectrometer to high-precision astronomical imaging, it comes with everything. It’s going to be one of the most powerful instruments ever designed by a multi-national team, with each participant reaping the rewards. Canada in particular hopes to use its place to promote astronomical education within its own borders, with teams helping from the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia, among others.

Encouragement for astronomical telescope funding, Bryan Long’s visual story reminds us why we fall in love with stargazing: