VLA Reveals Spectacular “Halos” of Spiral Galaxies

A study of spiral galaxies seen edge-on has revealed that “halos” of cosmic rays and magnetic fields above and below the galaxies’ disks are much more common than previously thought.

cascafinalHSTdiskMedianhalo

Composite image of an edge-on spiral galaxy with a radio halo produced by fast-moving particles in the galaxy’s magnetic field. In this image, the large, grey-blue area is a single image formed by combining the radio halos of 30 different galaxies, as seen with the Very Large Array. At the center is a visible-light image of one of the galaxies, NGC 5775, made using the Hubble Space Telescope. This visible-light image shows only the inner part of the galaxy’s star-forming region, outer portions of which extend horizontally into the area of the radio halo.

IMAGE CREDIT: Jayanne English (U. Manitoba), with support from Judith Irwin and Theresa Wiegert (Queen’s U.) for the CHANG-ES consortium; NRAO/AUI/NSF; NASA/STScI

SCIENCE CREDIT: Theresa Wiegert, Judith Irwin and the CHANG-ES consortium.

An international team of astronomers used the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to study 35 edge-on spiral galaxies at distances from 11 million to 137 million light-years from Earth. The study took advantage of the ability of the VLA, following completion of a decade-long upgrade project, to detect radio emission much fainter than previously possible.

“We knew before that some halos existed, but, using the full power of the upgraded VLA and the full power of some advanced image-processing techniques, we found that these halos are much more common among spiral galaxies than we had realized,” said Judith Irwin, of Queen’s University in Canada, leader of the project.

Spiral galaxies, like our own Milky Way, have the vast majority of their stars, gas, and dust in a flat, rotating disk with spiral arms. Most of the light and radio waves seen with telescopes come from objects in that disk. Learning about the environment above and below such disks has been difficult.

“Studying these halos with radio telescopes can give us valuable information about a wide range of phenomena, including the rate of star formation within the disk, the winds from exploding stars, and the nature and origin of the galaxies’ magnetic fields,” said Theresa Wiegert, also of Queen’s University, lead author of a paper in the Astronomical Journal reporting the team’s findings. The paper provides the first analysis of data from all 35 galaxies in the study.

To see how extensive a “typical” halo is, the astronomers scaled their images of 30 of the galaxies to the same diameter, then another of the authors, Jayanne English, of the University of Manitoba in Canada, combined them into a single image. The result, said Irwin, is “a spectactular image showing that cosmic rays and magnetic fields not only permeate the galaxy disk itself, but extend far above and below the disk.”

The combined image, the scientists said, confirms a prediction of such halos made in 1961.

Along with the report on their findings, the astronomers also are making their first batch of specialized VLA images available to other researchers. In previous publications, the team described the details of their project and its goals. The team has completed a series of VLA observations and their latest paper is based on analysis of their first set of images. They now are analyzing additional datasets, and also will make those additional images available to other scientists when they publish the results of the later analyses.

With the data from their study made public, “others can do their own analysis to explore other aspects of these halos and what they can tell us about galaxies and their evolution,” said Marita Krause of the Max-Planck Institute for Radioastronomy in Bonn, Germany.

The data are available at: http://queensu.ca/changes

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Original press release: <a href=”https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/galaxy-halos”>https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/galaxy-halos</a>.

CFHT data helps New Horizons navigate toward Pluto

Launched January 19 2006, the New Horizons spacecraft is now getting very close to Pluto with a predicted closest approach on Tuesday July 14 at 11:49:57 UTC, 01:00 HST. This will be the first human encounter with the Plutonian world. New Horizons will get there relying on CFHT data.

New Horizons is roughly 2.5 meters (8 feet) across and weighed approximately 480 kilograms (1,050 pounds) – about half a ton – when first fueled. It travels a the tremendous Earth-relative speed of about 16.26 kilometers per seconds (58,536 km/h; 36,373 mph). At this speed however, New Horizons will only be able to make a flyby close to Pluto and will not be able to enter orbit. Entering orbit would mean that operators would have to reduce the craft speed by over 90%, which would require more than 1,000 times the fuel that New Horizons can carry.

Nevertheless, a series of maneuvers are needed for a collisionless approach to Pluto so an accurate mapping of the objects close to or in the Plutonian system is crucial. In order to achieve this, the New Horizons team performed several images scans for smaller objects, for both intrinsic scientific interest, and as potential collision hazards. However, in order to enable the hazard search, New Horizons required a high-precision flux/position reference system.

CFHT discretionary time awarded to JJ Kavelaars at the CADC in 2014 turned out to be the best dataset to do just that. During the 2014A semester, Kavelaars and collaborators used MegaCam to refine Pluto’s astrometric system, improving our knowledge of Pluto’s orbit and aiding the New Horizons pre-encounter hazard search team. The catalog resulting from these observations allows more precise calibration than any other wide field imager currently in operation due to the decade long use of MegaPrime on CFHT and the precise calibration system developed for this camera by Stephen Gwyn at the CADC. CFHT/MegaPrime astrometric reference catalogue is now being fed directly into the navigation process for guiding New Horizons into it’s final encounter with the Pluto system.

Additional information:

CFHT press release

New Horizons website

Contact Information:

Stephen Gwyn
Canadian Astronomical Data Center
Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics
Stephen.Gwyn@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

JJ Kavelaars
Canadian Astronomical Data Center
Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics
JJ.Kavelaars@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

The Canadian Astronomical Society Delighted by Canada’s Commitment to Construction Funding for the Thirty Meter Telescope

VANCOUVER, April 6, 2015 – The Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) is delighted by Canada’s commitment to construction funding for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) international partnership, announced yesterday evening by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver.

“The TMT is the top priority in Canada’s Long Range Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics, our roadmap to continued international leadership in this field. Canada’s astronomers will point to today’s announcement for decades to come as a critical moment in furthering our excellence in the field,” said Christine Wilson, President of CASCA and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy.

The TMT is a revolutionary telescope conceived and designed by Canadian astronomers and industry working together with their partners in China, India, Japan, the University of California and the California Institute of Technology. The TMT will be almost 100 times more powerful than the current best telescope. The telescope will examine the first stars to form in the universe, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way and the atmospheres and other properties of planets within the habitable zones of other stars.

“Canada has consistently ranked among the top three countries in the world in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and that success is directly linked to our ability to access the top facilities in the world, like the TMT. This is a great day for Canadian astronomy as we have now secured long-term access to what will be the world’s most powerful ground-based telescope,” stated Wilson.

CASCA joined with its Coalition for Canadian Astronomy partners from the university sector and industry in welcoming the Prime Minister’s announcement.

“Canadian astronomers have been responsible for some of the greatest discoveries in this field, and it is our hope that the TMT will inspire a new generation of young Canadians to pursue a career in the sciences. The science TMT will deliver will be transformative for astronomy, both in Canada and around the world. This is a once-in-a-generation project in which all Canadians can take great pride,” said Ray Carlberg, Canadian TMT Project Director.

About the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société canadienne d’astronomie
The Canadian Astronomical Society was founded in 1971 and incorporated in 1983 as a society of professional astronomers. The society is devoted to the promotion and advancement of knowledge of the universe through research and education. CASCA’s road map to international leadership in this field is the Long Range Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics, or LRP. The LRP was created by a Blue Ribbon Panel to chart a course for Canadian astronomy. It calls for Canadian participation in the next generation of global astronomy projects, coupled with investments in technology development in Canada, the training of young Canadian scientists and engineers, and intellectual leadership in the planning and operation of facilities by Canadian astronomers.

For further information, contact:

Christine Wilson
CASCA President
casca-president@casca.ca
(905) 525-9140 x27483

Leslie Sage
CASCA Press Officer
(301) 675-8957
cascapressofficer@gmail.com

Ray Carlberg
Canadian TMT Project Director
(416) 978-2198
carlberg@astro.utoronto.ca

For more information about TMT, visit tmt.org

Birth of Planets Revealed in Astonishing Detail in ALMA’s ‘Best Image Ever’

Astronomers have captured the best image ever of planet formation around an infant star as part of the testing and verification process for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array’s (ALMA) new high-resolution capabilities.

https://public.nrao.edu/images/non-gallery/2014/c-blue/11-05-HL-Tau/HLTau_nrao.jpg
ALMA image of the young star HL Tau and its protoplanetary disk. This best image ever of planet formation reveals multiple rings and gaps that herald the presence of emerging planets as they sweep their orbits clear of dust and gas. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); C. Brogan, B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

This revolutionary new image reveals in astonishing detail the planet-forming disk surrounding HL Tau, a Sun-like star located approximately 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

ALMA uncovered never-before-seen features in this system, including multiple concentric rings separated by clearly defined gaps. These structures suggest that planet formation is already well underway around this remarkably young star.

“These features are almost certainly the result of young planet-like bodies that are being formed in the disk. This is surprising since HL Tau is no more than a million years old and such young stars are not expected to have large planetary bodies capable of producing the structures we see in this image,” said ALMA Deputy Director Stuartt Corder.

All stars are believed to form within clouds of gas and dust that collapse under gravity. Over time, the surrounding dust particles stick together, growing into sand, pebbles, and larger-size rocks, which eventually settle into a thin protoplanetary disk where asteroids, comets, and planets form.

Once these planetary bodies acquire enough mass, they dramatically reshape the structure of their natal disk, fashioning rings and gaps as the planets sweep their orbits clear of debris and shepherd dust and gas into tighter and more confined zones.

The new ALMA image reveals these striking features in exquisite detail, providing the clearest picture to date of planet formation. Images with this level of detail were previously only seen in computer models and artist concepts. ALMA, living up to its promise, has now provided direct proof that nature and theory are very much in agreement.

“This new and unexpected result provides an incredible view of the process of planet formation. Such clarity is essential to understand how our own Solar System came to be and how planets form throughout the Universe,” said Tony Beasley, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Virginia, which manages ALMA operations for astronomers in North America.

HL Tau is hidden in visible light behind a massive envelope of dust and gas. Since ALMA observes at much longer wavelengths, it is able to peer through the intervening dust to study the processes right at the core of this cloud. “This is truly one of the most remarkable images ever seen at these wavelengths. The level of detail is so exquisite that it’s even more impressive than many optical images. The fact that we can see planets being born will help us understand not only how planets form around other stars but also the origin of our own Solar System,” said NRAO astronomer Crystal Brogan.

ALMA’s new high-resolution capabilities were achieved by spacing the antennas up to 15 kilometers apart. This baseline at millimeter wavelengths enabled a resolution of 35 milliarcseconds, which is equivalent to a penny as seen from more than 110 kilometers away.

“Such a resolution can only be achieved with the long baseline capabilities of ALMA and provides astronomers with new information that is impossible to collect with any other facility, including the best optical observatories,” noted ALMA Director Pierre Cox.

These long baselines fulfill one of ALMA’s major objectives and mark an impressive technological and engineering milestone. Future observations at ALMA’s longest possible baseline of 16 kilometers will produce even clearer images and continue to expand our understanding of the cosmos.

“This observation illustrates the dramatic and important results that come from NSF supporting world-class instrumentation such as ALMA,” said Fleming Crim, the National Science Foundation assistant director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences. “ALMA is delivering on its enormous potential for revealing the distant Universe and is playing a unique and transformational role in astronomy.”

Original press release: https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/planet-formation-alma

On-Site Construction Begins on the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii; Watch Worldwide by Webcast on October 7

On October 7, 2014, a groundbreaking and blessing ceremony for the next-generation Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will launch a multi-national $1.4 billion project near the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Although access to the TMT construction site will be limited due to the area’s sensitive environment and harsh physical conditions, the ceremony will be fully accessible via a live-stream webcast.

George Takei, noted actor, director and author, known for his role in the television series Star Trek, will present pre-recorded science segments during the live webcast. Dr. Robert Hurt, researcher, science podcaster and lecturer, will host the webcast, available at tmt.org/buildingTMT .

Next-Generation Discoveries from a Next-Generation Observatory

“This is an exciting moment as we begin construction of TMT. Its giant mirror, nearly 100 feet across, promises the highest definition views of planets orbiting nearby stars and the first stars and galaxies in the distant universe,” said Edward Stone, Executive Director, TMT International Observatory.

The TMT International Observatory (TIO) is an international partnership with members comprised of the California Institute of Technology, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences in Japan, and the University of California. India recently received approval from the Union Cabinet of India to join the TMT project this fall, and Canada is aiming to join as a member in spring 2015.

Initial activities in Hawaii include site preparation and grading, and offsite work has begun in earnest as well. In China, partners are designing the telescope’s fully articulated main science steering mirror system and developing the laser guide star system. Japan has produced over sixty special zero thermal-expansion glass mirror blanks for the main mirror and is designing the telescope structure in detail. Fabricating the mirror support system is ongoing in India. The adaptive optics facility is in final design and the enclosure is ready for construction in Canada. The mirror control system is in final design in California.

“With profound respect for the culture, environment, and values, and thanks to the people of Hawaii, we appreciate the opportunity to build this revolutionary facility for expanding our understanding of the universe,” said TIO Board Chair Henry Yang. “This is a remarkable partnership among institutions in five nations, in cooperation with the University of Hawaii, to achieve a shared, visionary goal. We are grateful for the hard work and outstanding support of so many, including the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, over the past decade to reach this important and meaningful milestone.”

Traditional Hawaiian Groundbreaking and Blessing Ceremony

Henry Yang, TIO Board Chair and Chancellor of the University of California Santa Barbara, will deliver the October 7 groundbreaking and blessing program’s opening remarks followed by Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor William Kenoi. A traditional Hawaiian ceremony will conclude the program.

“TMT has made a commitment to the people of Hawaii to work within a plan created by the Office of Mauna Kea Management for responsible development on Mauna Kea,” said Sandra Dawson, TMT’s Manager of Hawaii Community Affairs. “Respect for the community and Mauna Kea is the cornerstone of our continuing stewardship.”

Webcast Viewing of the Ceremony

The webcast will begin at 11:15 a.m. HST on October 7, 2014. Visit TMT.org/buildingTMT to watch the ceremony live stream, explore event information, connect via social media, and view the multimedia archive of the event afterwards. Viewers worldwide may send greetings to TMT (@TMTHawaii) via the hashtag #buildingTMT .

Original press release: http://www.tmt.org/news-center/site-construction-begins-thirty-meter-telescope-hawaii-watch-worldwide-webcast

Début de la construction du Télescope de Trente-Mètres à Hawaii Accès audiovisuel par Webcast le 7 octobre

Le 7 octobre 2014 auront lieu l’inauguration et une cérémonie de bénédiction pour le télescope du trente mètres (TMT), un projet de $1.4 milliard situé près du sommet du Mauna Kea à Hawaii.

Bien que l’accès au chantier du TMT sera limité en raison de l’environnement précaire et des conditions physiques imposantes du site, la cérémonie sera retransmise en direct par internet.

L’éminent acteur, metteur en scène et auteur, George Takei, bien connu pour sa participation à la série Star Trek, présentera des segments à saveur scientifique durant la presentation. Le chercheur, vulgarisateur scientifique, et chargé de cours, Dr. Robert Hurt, sera l’hôte de cette présentation que l’on pourra suivre à tmt.org/buildingTMT .

Découvertes anticipées d’un observatoire de nouvelle génération

“Nous vivons des moments de grande intensité alors que nous entamons la construction du TMT. Avec son mirroir géant de plus de 30m de diamètre, le TMT offrira des images d’une résolution inégalée pour des systèmes planétaires autour d’étoiles proches et des premières étoiles et galaxies dans l’univers lointain” disait Edward Stone, Directeur Exécutif de l’Observatoire international TMT.

L’Observatoire international TMT (TIO) est un partenariat international dont les membres proviennent de l’Institut de technologie de Californie, les Observatoires astronomiques nationaux de l’académie chinoise des sciences, les Instituts de sciences naturelles au Japon, et l’Université de Californie. L’Inde a récemment reçu l’approbationde son cabinet d’union pour joindre le project TMT cet automne; le Canada a le but de se joindre en tant que membre au printemps 2015.

Les activités préliminaires à Hawaï comprennent la préparation du site et son nivellement; le travail hors site est aussi en plein essor. En Chine, les partenaires s’affairent à concevoir le système d’alignement du telescope équipé de miroirs entièrement articulés et de développer le système de guidage au laser. Le Japon a produit plus de soixante segments en verre à expansion thermique nulle pour le miroir principal et conçoit la structure du télescope en détail. La fabrication du système de soutien du miroir est en cours en Inde. Le module d’optique adaptative est en conception finale et la coupole est prête à être construite au Canada. Le système de contrôle des miroirs est dans sa conception finale en Californie.

“C’est avec un profond respect pour la culture, l’environnement et les valeurs des habitants d’Hawaii, que nous entrevoyons la possibilité de construire cette installation révolutionnaire pour élargir notre compréhension de l’univers, » a déclaré le président du Conseil d’administration OTI, Henry Yang. “Il s’agit d’un partenariat remarquable entre les institutions de ces cinq pays, en coopération avec l’Université d’Hawaï, pour atteindreun objectif visionnaire commun. Nous sommes reconnaissants pour le travail hardu et les contributions remarquables de tant de gens et organismes, y compris le Gordon et Betty Moore Foundation, depuis plus de dix ans, pour atteindre ce jalon si important et significatif”.

Inauguration hawaïenne traditionnelle et la cérémonie de benediction

Le président du Conseil OTI et chancelier de l’Université de Californie à Santa Barbara, Henry Yang, livrera le 7 octobre l’allocution d’ouverture pour l’inauguration et le programme de benediction, suivie du gouverneur d’Hawaii Neil Abercrombie et du maire du comté d’Hawaii, William Kenoi. Une cérémonie traditionnelle Hawaïenne est prévue pour conclure le programme.

“Le TMT s’est engagé auprès du peuple Hawaïen pour respecter le plan créé par le Bureau de gestion de Mauna Kea pour un développement responsible sur le Mauna Kea,”a déclaré Sandra Dawson, directrice au TMT des affaires communautaires Hawaïenne. “Le respect de la communauté et du Mauna Kea est la pierre angulaire de notre gérance harmonieuse.”

Transmission sur l’internet de la cérémonie

Le webcast débutera à 11:15, heure d’Hawaii, le 7 octobre 2014. Visitez TMT.org/buildingTMT pour assister à la cérémonie en direct, découvrir des informations pertinentes, communiquer via les réseaux sociaux, et explorer les archives multimédia de l’événement par la suite. Les téléspectateurs du monde entier peuvent envoyer leurs voeux au TMT (@TMTHawaii) via le hashtag # #buildingTMT.

Traduction du communiqué de presse original: http://www.tmt.org/news-center/site-construction-begins-thirty-meter-telescope-hawaii-watch-worldwide-webcast

 

Dr. Sara Ellison awarded the Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics by the Royal Society of Canada (September 24, 2014)

This is an official CASCA Press Release.

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds Dr. Sara Ellison of the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia for being awarded the prestigious Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics by the Royal Society of Canada.

As Canada’s senior National Academy, the RSC exists to promote Canadian research and scholarly accomplishment in both of Canada’s official languages, to mentor young scholars and artists, to recognize academic and artistic excellence, and to advise governments, non-governmental organizations, and Canadians generally on matters of public interest (http://rsc-src.ca/en/about-us/our-purpose/mandate-mission-and-vision).

Dr Ellison received her PhD in astronomy from Cambridge University in 2000,  then moved to the European Southern Observatory in Chile as an ESO fellow.  She joined the University of Victoria in 2003, and was promoted to associate professor in 2008 and full professor this year. Amongst other honours, she was given the Annie Jump Cannon award by the American Astronomical Society in 2004. Her research focuses on understanding galaxy evolution through cosmic time.

Contacts:
Leslie Sage
CASCA Press Officer
+1 (301) 675 8957
cascapressofficer@gmail.com

Dr. Christian Marois elected to the College of New Scholars of the Royal Society of Canada (September 17, 2014)

This is an official CASCA Press Release.

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the election of Dr. Christian Marois of the NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics in Victoria, British Columbia to the College of New Scholars of the Royal Society of Canada.

The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists is Canada’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership (http://rsc-src.ca/en/college-new-scholars-artists-and-scientists ).

Dr Marois received his PhD in astronomy from the Université de Montréal in  2004, then moved to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California as  a post-doc. He joined the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in 2008. He was awarded CASCA’s Plaskett Medal in 2005 for the best PhD thesis in astronomy in the preceding year, and the CBC named him their scientist of the year in 2008. His research is focused on the direct imaging of exoplanets.

Contacts:
Leslie Sage
CASCA Press Officer
+1 (301) 675 8957
cascapressofficer@gmail.com

Dr. Harvey Richer is Elected to the Royal Society of Canada (Sept. 16, 2014)

This is an official CASCA Press Release.

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the election of Dr. Harvey Richer of the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, British Columbia, to the Royal Society of Canada.

As Canada’s senior National Academy, the RSC exists to promote Canadian research and scholarly accomplishment in both of Canada’s official languages, to mentor young scholars and artists, to recognize academic and artistic excellence, and to advise governments, non-governmental organizations, and Canadians generally on matters of public interest (http://rsc-src.ca/en/about-us/our-purpose/mandate-mission-and-vision).

Harvey received his PhD in astronomy from the University of Rochester in 1970, and moved to UBC the same year. He was the Gemini Scientist for Canada 2000-2003, and has won the Carlyle S. Beals Award from CASCA, the Canada-Fulbright Fellowship in 2005, held the Canada Council Killam Fellowship 2001-2003 and the UBC Killam Fellowship in1991. His current research focuses on the oldest white dwarf stars and what they can tell us about the formation and evolution of stellar systems like globular clusters.

Contacts:
Leslie Sage
CASCA Press Officer
+1 (301) 675 8957

UBC Science Media Contacts
Chris Balma
Communications
UBC Science
balma@science.ubc.ca
604.822.5082
604.202.5047 (c)

Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Coordinator, Communications
silvia.moreno-garcia@science.ubc.ca
604.827.5001

Next-Generation Thirty Meter Telescope Begins Construction in Hawaii

Following the approval of a sublease on July 25 by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) announces the beginning of the construction phase on Hawaii Island and around the world throughout the TMT international partnership. Contingent on that decision, the TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Directors, the project’s new governing body, recently approved the initial phase of construction, with activities near the summit of Mauna Kea scheduled to start later this year.

Kahu Ku Mauna and the Mauna Kea Management Board reviewed, and the University of Hawaii Board of Regents recently approved, the proposed TMT sublease. The final approval from the Board of Land and Natural Resources—the last step in the sublease process—allows TMT to begin on-site construction on Mauna Kea, home to many of the world’s premier observatories.

“It has been an amazing journey for TMT, from idea to shovel-ready project,” said Henry Yang, TIO Board Chair and Chancellor of the University of California Santa Barbara. “We are grateful to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Hawaiian government, its citizens, and our project partners in bringing this important astronomical science effort to fruition. It is also my rewarding experience to work with so many community friends, University of Hawaii colleagues, and officials on both the Big Island and Oahu in this journey.”

The Rise of a New Observatory – Activities Around the World

The TMT project was initiated a decade ago by the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the University of California as the TMT Observatory Corporation. Now, as the TMT International Observatory (TIO)—founded as a nonprofit limited liability company on May 6, 2014 —the project has the official green light to begin constructing a powerful next-generation telescope.

The TIO founding members are Caltech, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences in Japan, and the University of California. India, an associate, is expected to become a full member later this year. Canada is also an associate and aiming to join as a full member in 2015.

Initial construction activities in Hawaii will include grading the site in preparation for future building work, enabling a site dedication ceremony in October. TMT is committed to work within a plan for responsible development on Mauna Kea created by the Office of Mauna Kea Management.

“TMT has worked for many years to design an unprecedented telescope, but also to work with the community to incorporate respect for Mauna Kea in our stewardship,” said Gary Sanders, Project Manager for TMT. “It is an honor and a privilege to now begin building our next-generation observatory in so special a place.”

Other work has already been proceeding off-site and will continue now apace.

“Design of the fully articulated main science steering mirror system in the telescope, as well as development of the lasers, laser guide star systems and other high-tech components, is proceeding in China,” said Yan Jun, Director General of the National Astronomical Observatories of China.

“Japan has seen to the production of over 60 mirror blanks made out of special zero-expansion glass that does not alter its shape with temperature changes. The blanks will be highly polished for use in the telescope’s 30-meter diameter primary mirror. The final design of the telescope structure itself is nearing completion,” said Masanori Iye, TMT International Observatory Board Vice Chair and TMT Japan Representative for the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

In Canada, the TMT adaptive optics facility is in final design. Ernie Seaquist, Executive Director of the ACURA, added, “The TMT enclosure design is complete and the enclosure is now ready for construction by a Canadian industrial firm.”

“Prototyping of TMT’s primary mirror assemblies and the building of mirror actuators, edge sensors, and support systems is ongoing in India,” noted Eswar Reddy, Program Director of the India TMT Coordination Centre.

Three “first-light” instruments are also under development with major contributions from all of the TMT partners.

The Path to Construction

The announcement of an imminent start to on-site work, where all of these initial developments will come together, is welcome news to scientists worldwide.

“The start of construction means that TMT is becoming real, and that’s exciting news for astronomers,” said Catherine Pilachowski, an astronomer at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., and an observer representing the United States astronomical community at TMT board meetings. “The science TMT will do is breathtaking, and will engage all astronomers in the adventure of new frontiers.”

The advancement of TMT to this stage of imminent on-site construction has been made possible by the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The foundation has spent $141 million to date to fund the design, development, and construction phases of TMT.

“I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and all of our partners and supporters,” said Edward Stone, the Morrisroe Professor of Physics at Caltech and the new Executive Director of TIO. “We are looking forward to starting construction this year and moving ahead.”

A Boost for Hawaii

The start of TMT on-site construction will directly benefit the local Hawaiian community. TMT will now make its first annual contribution to The Hawaii Island New Knowledge (THINK) Fund, a program that promotes science, technology, engineering, and math education across grades K-12, secondary, and post-secondary education. Over the life of the TMT lease on Mauna Kea, TMT will give $1 million per year to the THINK Fund.

In the construction sector, TMT will create about 300 full-time construction jobs. TMT has committed to the hiring of union workers for these positions. Looking further ahead, during operations, TMT will have a staff of about 120-140, which will be drawn as much as possible from Hawaii Island’s available labor pool. A workforce pipeline program in the meantime will also educate and train island residents for jobs with TMT, as well as other observatories and high-tech industries.

“The start of construction of TMT is great news for Hawaii Island residents,” said Sandra Dawson, TMT’s Manager of Hawaii Community Affairs. “We are proud to be a good citizen of the community as we all work toward building a revolutionary astronomical instrument.”


Original press release: http://www.tmt.org/news-center/next-generation-thirty-meter-telescope-begins-construction-hawaii