CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2019)

TMT Instrumentation Beyond First Light

Instrumentation for large telescopes takes a long time to develop, typically 7-10 years between start of conceptual design to first light. Work must start now if TMT is to realize its goal of introducing a new capability every two years after first light, and to remain competitive with ELT.

The Science Requirements Document (SRD) for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) describes a range of capabilities (instruments and facility systems), and their requirements. The TMT Science Advisory Committee (SAC) last presented a preferred phasing of these capabilities in March 2011, and it is certainly time to revisit this. It is important that we in Canada give careful consideration to our own priorities so these can be clearly communicated to the SAC. US planning, for example, is being done in the context of possible access to both TMT and GMT, while Canadians and other partners will not have direct GMT access.

In late 2017 the SAC solicited, reviewed and ranked white papers from the TMT community. These rankings have not been made public, but the concepts under consideration are available here. This list represents a mild evolution of the original descriptions in the SRD.

A summary of the instruments under consideration for all three extremely large telescopes is given in the following table, with first light capabilities in boldface:

CATAC is preparing a review of these concepts and their phasing, with the aim of making recommendations that reflect Canada’s priorities. Your input is needed for this process! A draft for comment has been made available on our web page. Our March 26 CATAC Zoom meeting (3-4pm EDT) will be open to the public for discussion of this draft report. We encourage you to participate in that meeting, and/or send your feedback directly to

Wide Field Optical Spectrograph Progress

If you’d like to keep informed about the progress of WFOS, consider signing up to the mailing list here. The instrument team will be sending out occasional updates as the instrument’s specifications and science capabilities become increasingly defined.

Recent and Upcoming Meetings and Events

  • The next TMT Science Forum will be early November 2019, in China. The theme will likely be around multimessenger astronomy, and/or synergies with other facilities. Please consider attending! CATAC expects some funding will be available to help subsidize travel costs; stay tuned for a future announcement.
  • The CATAC meeting at 3pm EDT on March 26 will be open to CASCA members. We will discuss our draft recommendations on TMT instrumentation.
  • Extremely Big Eyes on the Early Universe, Sept 9-13, 2019 in Rome, Italy. This is the last of a three-part international conference series. Abstract submission deadline is April 15, and registration deadline is June 15.
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