Thirty Meter Telescope project lands $243.5 million from Canada

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The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project, which is already backed by the United States, Japan, India and China has landed a whopping $243.5 million funding from Canada, which will be spread out over the course of next decade.

The funding decision was announced by Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday and this is on top of the $30 million already shelled out by different sources in the country. This increased investment has landed Canadian researchers a viewing share in the project once the telescope is operational. The TMT will be built in Hawaii, at the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano.

According to Harper, the money will be spent in Canada for creating jobs in the telescope’s construction and assembly areas. The Thirty Meter Telescope was designed by Port Coquitlam, a British Columbia-based firm Dynamic Structures Ltd., which will also construct the device before shipping it to the Mauna Kea site.

TMT project was initiated by the University of California, the California Institute of Technology and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy and observatories and institutions from China, India and Japan signed on as partners.

TMT will be used by astronomers to observe planets orbiting distant stars outside our own solar system. The telescope will also enable researchers watch formation of new planets and stars. According to the project’s website, the telescope will enable scientists to take a peak 13 billion light years away for a glimpse into the early years of the universe.

Once built, the telescope will hold the title of world’s largest optical telescope with segmented primary mirror being nearly 30 metres in diameter. The title is currently held by the Gran Telescopio Canarias located on Spain’s Canary Islands, which is a 10.4-metre telescope with a segmented primary mirror.

According to TMT’s website, the telescope’s large aperture will collect more light, allowing astronomers to capture images of fainter objects in distant galaxies. This will also let researchers look further into the universe and see more clearly by a factor of 10 to 100 depending on the observation.

The telescope is yet to be built, but it already has a competitor – the European Extremely Large Telescope, which will have a mirror that is 39 metres in diameter. E-ELT is to be built atop a Chilean mountain, Cerro Armazones, in the country’s Atacama Desert. The telescope is expected to be operational is 2024.