CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2022)

TMT Canada Information Session

Just over 50 people attended the CATAC webinar discussion on May 12, 2022. The slides that CATAC presented are available here. Some of the key points of information include:

  • Description of the anticipated steps and milestones in the NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) process. Once the NSF accepts the project, it enters the MREFC queue and a well-defined process of reviews and studies is initiated. This process hasn’t started yet.
  • The earliest likely first light for TMT is 2032, if the project enters the MREFC queue now. This timeline relative to ELT is still competitive, but further delays will push first light farther into the future, as there is little scope for accelerating construction.
  • We are still awaiting publication of the decision on the appeal to the rescinding of the construction permit on the alternative site, in the Canary Islands.
  • TMT partners are signatories to a Master Agreement, which cannot be changed without unanimous approval from all members. A single member cannot withdraw from the agreement without significant financial compensation to the others.

This was followed by a presentation by the Project Manager, Fengchuan Liu. Highlights include:

  • A summary of the recent full system, PDR-level design review by non-advocate reviewers. The review was successful, with notable identified strengths including the technical readiness of the project and the solid cost estimates and risk assessments. The panel identified the broader impacts program as a major risk – this team has already been rebuilt as recommended by the review.
  • The design is very mature, with 82% of the project in either Final Design or Fabrication stage.
  • A thorough and frank description of dialogue and outreach activities underway in Hawaii. In particular, acknowledgement that past astronomy outreach has mostly been with a subset of the community, typically already well assimilated to western culture. Efforts are underway to also engage much more broadly. Hawaiian communities have appreciated any efforts related to the protection and restoration of the Mauna Kea environment, and to education opportunities that are accessible by all (including K-12 and community colleges).

Recent News

Bob Kirschner is the new Executive Director of TIO, succeeding Ed Stone who retired May 15, 2022. For more information, see here.

Site Update

The Hawaii State Legislature passed a bill which creates a new Authority to manage the Mauna Kea lands. The bill passed with a large majority, and now awaits the Governor’s approval to become law. The full text of the approved bill can be found here. There will be a transition period of up to five years before the new Authority takes over fully from the University of Hawaii; no leases can be renewed or issued during that time. The impact of this new law on TMT and the other observatories on the mountain remains to be seen. However, the bill does include a statement that “the support of astronomy…is a policy of the State”.

CATAC Membership

Kristine Spekkens and David Lafreniere ended their terms on CATAC in May 2022. Their advice to CATAC over the years has been outstanding and essential, and we are very grateful for their service. We are currently awaiting replacements to be nominated by CASCA and ACURA.

Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair, mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Kim Venn (University of Victoria)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Christine Wilson (Acting CASCA President, 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)

Pour marque-pages : Permaliens.

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