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Astronomers meet in Mysuru to discuss 30-metre telescope

Kalyan Ray, DHNS, New Delhi Nov 9 2017, 0:28 IST
The TMT is a proposed observatory with an extremely large telescope that enables astrophysicists to see the far corners of the universe. file photo

The TMT is a proposed observatory with an extremely large telescope that enables astrophysicists to see the far corners of the universe. file photo

Astronomers from all over the world have gathered at Mysuru to decide on the kind of fundamental questions that scientists will try to answer when the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) – a global mega science facility – comes alive next decade.

The TMT is a proposed observatory with an extremely large telescope that enables astrophysicists to see the far corners of the universe. It is being built with cooperation from the governments of Canada, Japan, China and India. Several USA institutes as well as the Gordon and Betty Moore foundation are also part of it.

What are the things that it would do after the first light (opening the telescope), when the telescope would be ready for the community? That is among the questions being discussed at the conference, TMT Science Forum, being held in the Infosys campus in Mysuru between November 7-9.

The meeting features presentations on the scientific questions to be answered by TMT and what kind of instrumentation would be required for them. "One of the questions before us is how to look for life on other planets with spectroscopic signatures," B Eswar Reddy, a professor at Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics and programme director of TMT India, told DH. The central government in 2015 approved Rs 1299.80 crore as India's contribution for the TMT between 2014-2023. This will be shared by the Department of Science and Technology (Rs 675.25 crore) and the Department of Atomic Energy (Rs 624.55 crore).

The project, however, is delayed because of a litigation in the USA on the proposed site at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Green activists there have opposed the construction of the facility.

However, a local board in Hawaii cleared the construction in September 2017 after six months of hearing, there is also a litigation pending in the US Supreme Court. "We have fixed a deadline of April 2018 to finalise the Mauna Kea or shift to an alternate location in Spain. The schedule for the first light has been pushed back to 2027-28," said Reddy.

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