ngCFHT Update (April 14, 2013)
The Next Generation CFHT (ngCFHT) project passed two important milestones in recent months.
First, in November 2012, a pair of reports from a two-year feasibility study (begun in early 2011) were submitted to the CFHT Science Advisory Committee and Board of Directors. The first report examined the science case for ngCFHT: a dedicated, wide-field, 10m spectroscopic survey telescope. These science cases were prepared by a team of ~60 scientists representing roughly a dozen countries, including 14 Canadian scientists representing six universities and NRC-Herzberg. The second report examined the overall technical feasibility of redeveloping CFHT into such a facility. Both reports are publicly available at the ngCFHT project website.
Second, on 27-29 March 2013, an international workshop on the ngCFHT project was held in the ‘Imiloa Center for Astronomy in Hilo, Hawaii. This three-day workshop was very well attended, with nearly 100 participants representing 11 countries. All presentations are available online, either at the workshop website or at the project website. In general, talks took one of two forms: overviews of facilities and surveys that would have strong synergies with ngCFHT, or science reviews focusing on the anticipated scientific impact of ngCFHT.
On the second day of the workshop, representatives from various communities presented short overviews of their strategic plans, with an emphasis on opportunities and challenges presented by the ngCFHT project. Although most communities share the problem of having limited (uncommitted) funds for new astronomy projects, all agreed on the extraordinary scientific potential of ngCFHT. A clear priority that emerged at the meeting is the timely establishment of a small project office, preferably in Waimea, that can push the project forward (and play a central role in helping to define the expanded partnership that would be necessary to proceed to a formal development and construction stage). Ideally, such a project office — perhaps consisting of a project manager, lead scientist, and 2-4 engineers — would be in place by early 2014. To maximize scientific synergies with upcoming facilities and surveys, and to leverage the technological investments made for the ELTs, ngCFHT must continue to aim for a start of operations around 2021-2022.
A third important milestone for ngCFHT will be the upcoming CFHT Users’ Meeting in Campbell River, BC. Members of the CFHT users community who wish to convey their support for the project are urged to attend the meeting in person, or to register their support by contacting either the CFHT director, Dr. Doug Simon, or emailing members of the Science Advisory Committee.
patrick.cote [at] nrc-cnrc.gc.ca