CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

In late December, 2019, the law enforcement presence on Maunakea was removed, and the access road reopened. This came together with an agreement from TMT that there would be no attempt to restart construction until the end of February at the earliest, a loose deadline which has since been extended. These developments were an important step forward, as they have given the time and space needed for stakeholders in the dispute to engage in dialogue with less outside attention and pressure. No one knows for sure what the future holds for TMT, for Maunakea or for astronomy in Hawaii.

The alternative site identified for TMT is the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM), Canary Islands. This is a good quality site, scientifically. A decision to select this site rests with the TMT International Observatory Members1 and the dominant factors here are not scientific but rather political, financial and environmental. There are significant challenges to be overcome on all fronts; ORM is not an easy choice even in light of the difficulties faced on Maunakea.

Both the US Decadal and Canada’s LRP processes are proceeding and the fate of TMT is intertwined with them. CATAC is providing up to date information to our LRP panel when requested.

Steady progress on the instrumentation is being made, with the advances in the design of WFOS and refinement of MODHIS specifications. Construction is underway at HAA for the building in which NFIRAOS will be assembled, and the India TMT Optical Fabrication Facility (ITOFF) at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics campus near Bengaluru recently completed construction.

Upcoming Events:

The following events are all subject to further developments with the global COVID-19 pandemic.

  • TMT SAC meeting – March 25
  • CATAC will host a lunch session at CASCA at York University, Tuesday May 26, 2020
  • The TMT Early Careers Workshop will be held at HAA, May 26-June 1, 2020
  • Canada is planning to host the next TMT Science forum, May 15-19 (TBC) 2021, in Vancouver

1Canada is represented at the TIO Membership level by Iain Stewart, President of NRC. He is advised by the HAA Director, Luc Simard, who in turn takes advice from the TMT Board, SAC, CATAC and the broader community.

CATAC membership:

Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair,
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
David Lafrenière (Université de Montréal)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Kristine Spekkens (Royal Military College of Canada)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Rob Thacker (CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
Kim Venn (TIO Governing Board, non-voting, ex-officio)
Stan Metchev (TIO SAC, non-voting, ex-officio)
Tim Davidge (TIO SAC Canadian co-chair; NRC, observer)
Greg Fahlman (NRC, observer)

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