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Canada nearing crossroads on mega telescope project

Canada nearing crossroads on mega telescope project

Posted by Christian Miranda on July 29, 2014

An international effort to build an enormous telescope in Hawaii that would see to the limits of the known universe has taken an important step forward, a signal that the Harper government will have to decide soon if Canadian astronomers will have a share in the instrument’s future discoveries.

On Monday, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project announced it had obtained permits and approval of a sublease by state authorities to build a huge new observatory atop Mauna Kea, an extinct volcano on the big island of Hawaii that boasts some of the world’s leading astronomical facilities.

The telescope’s primary mirror will be 30 metres across, giving it about half the surface area of an NHL hockey rink. Such an instrument would easily dwarf any telescope operating in the world today and help usher in a new era of cosmic exploration.

Canada has invested $30-million in the telescope’s design and development, but it is not yet an official partner in the project. That would require an additional $300-million to secure a 20 per cent share in the $1.5-billion telescope.

With austerity ruling the federal budget process in recent years, there’s been little reason to expect Ottawa to rush to commit so much money. With the project moving forward, there may be little time to lose.

 

Photo illustration by: tmt.org

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