Years of development have now led to the start of the construction of a $1.4 billion thirty meter telescope (TMT) which is now being completed in Hawaii. This massive telescope will provide astronomers with the resolution of 10 times the Hubble telescope. However where it is being constructed has raised eyes with the surrounding population as they believe where it is being constructed is sacred ground, this is providing a problem to the development and will result in delays.
The name of the telescope gives away a lot of its features as it will have a reflective surface of 30 meters (around 98 feet) in diameter. This will be made up from 492 small hexagonal mirrors, as these will grant the telescopes new “adaptive optics” feature. This innovation is important as we may not need to put telescopes into space to get the pictures we need which would save a lot of time and money.
Adaptive optics are a technology pioneered in twin Keck telescopes, these scopes are also located around the top of Mauna Kea. This grants the telescope to make fine adjustments to get around the burring effects of the earth’s atmosphere. (This is the main reason behind why the Hubble is in space, so nothing can affect its vision)
The functionality of the adaptive optics being developed to use for the TMT uses a pair of deformable mirrors to correct this atmospheric burring, changing the shape of the mirror can correct the atmospheric turbulence in real time. Scientists call this feature Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics (MCAO). This is similar to the Keck design as TMT will use the wavfront sensor to sample the incoming light and determine the pattern of distortion. This requires the telescope to have control in order to find the right correction.
The TMT will give the astronomers a very powerful tool, to study such things as dark matter or supermassive black holes, and even galactic formations. It will even assist in looking for exoplanets in our universe until more specialized instruments of the telescope come online.
The TMT isn’t without a comparison as there are other projects in the Chilean Andes that are already planned to be 24 and 39 meters long. Each of these super-massive telescopes will be specially equipped to deal with a specific issue.
Hopefully in the long term we might be able to answer some of the bigger questions of our universe, by looking to the stars for answers
Have a great day!