August 29, 2009

China, US Work Together On World’s Largest Telescope

Chinese and American astronomers may be joining together in a collaborative effort to build the world's largest telescope in hope of gaining a greater understanding about the beginnings of the universe, Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

It has been named the Thirty-Meter-Telescope (TMT), a project originating from and headed by the University of California and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). They expect to have it finished sometime in 2019, according to the official Chinese news agency.

"It is a big undertaking and it will define the future of astronomy and astrophysics for about 60 or 70 years, so it will automatically involve a large international community," said Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau in an interview with Xinhua.

The university and Caltech are talking to Chinese astronomers and scientists about cooperation on funding and technology, but Xinhua said they have yet to come to a final decision

The project will need a total of $1 billion in financing, and now Canada and Japan have also signed up to be a part of the project.

The telescope, set to be located on top of the inactive Hawaiian volcano Mauna Kea, has a mirror spanning thirty meters in diameter, with the sharpest possible view of the universe.

When completed in 2018, the incredibly powerful telescope will allow astronomers to detect and study light from the earliest stars and galaxies as they form thirteen billion light years away, analyze the formation of planets around neighboring stars, and test many of the fundamental laws of physics.

If completed on schedule, the Thirty-Meter-Telescope will be the first of the new generation of Extremely Large Telescopes.


Image Caption: An artist's concept showing the segmented primary mirror, which has 492 hexagonal segments arranged into an f/1 hyperboloidal mirror.


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