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In Images: Hawaii's Giant Thirty Meter Telescope

Eye on the Sky

TMT top view

(Image credit: Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation)

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is a proposed optical telescope with a 100-foot (30 meters) primary mirror. The giant telescope is being built on the island of Hawaii.

Mauna Kea, HI

TMT artist's concept

(Image credit: Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation)

The Thirty Meter Telescope will join a host of other world-class observatories on Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, including the twin 33-foot (10 meters) Keck Telescopes. The TMT is expected to be three times the size of each of Keck's mirrors.

Laser

TMT laser

(Image credit: Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation)

TMT will have a laser that serves as an artificial star for removing atmospheric blurring using adaptive optics. The Mauna Kea site is at a high enough altitude to avoid some of these effects, but not all.

TMT sunset

TMT at sunset

(Image credit: Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation)

TMT will enable astronomers to explore objects inside the solar system, stars throughout the Milky Way and neighboring galaxies, and new galaxies being born at the furthest edge of the observable universe.

Mirrors

TMT mirror blanks

(Image credit: Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation)

Japan has produced 60 mirror blanks — mirrors that have not yet been polished to their final form — that will become part of the telescope's enormous 100-foot (30 meters) primary mirror. For comparison, the Keck Telescopes each have a 33-foot (10 meters) primary mirror.

Approval to Build

TMT on Mauna Kea

(Image credit: Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation)

The telescope received approval to be built on the summit of Mauna Kea in July 2014. Since the site was chosen, the telescope's construction has been controversial among native Hawaiians, for whom the volcano represents sacred ground.

Collective Effort

TMT side view

(Image credit: Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation)

The TMT Observatory Corporation was launched in 2003 by the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the University of California. The observatory's current members include Caltech, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences in Japan, and the University of California.

Tanya Lewis
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.