Complete News World

The thirty meter telescope is on the verge of extinction?  American funds are only enough to build a giant telescope

The thirty meter telescope is on the verge of extinction? American funds are only enough to build a giant telescope

Concern about the two planned giant telescopes is growing not only in the USA: the responsible supervisory body of the National Science Foundation has announced that government funds are enough for only one of them. The agency responsible for funding the research is expected to decide by May whether current funds should be invested in the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii, or in the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile.


The American research journal Science concludes that the current amount of $1.6 billion is not enough for both. If the US Congress does not release more funds or find another solution, it could mean the end of one of the two observatories – with far-reaching consequences for science.

As science reminds usBoth giant telescopes were originally proposed by university consortia, institutions and international partners. But given the enormous costs, this well-established financing model is not enough, which is why government support was necessary. For this purpose, officials have developed a program called “US Extremely Large Telescope Program“(US-ELTP) have come together to jointly strengthen support. In return, all astronomers from the USA should have access to instruments, which, thanks to their locations, should cover both the northern and southern hemispheres. In this regard, They will be superior to any competition.

According to Science magazine, cost estimates for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) now stand at $2.54 billion, and officials want to cover $850 million of that. So far, US$2 billion has been pledged for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), but it is expected to cost US$3.6 billion. So there is a deficit of about US$3.3 billion (three billion euros), almost twice that amount. As the National Science Foundation is said to recognize. Given the difficulties surrounding the creation of TMT, it is safe to assume that the US authorities will choose GMT, Science magazine quotes several experts. But regardless of the outcome, in both scenarios the consequences would be detrimental to American astronomy.

The Thirty Meter Telescope has already been built on Mauna Kea in Hawaii since 2014. It will one day be the largest optical telescope in the Northern Hemisphere. Using a 30-metre-long mirror, it will clearly tower above the 13 astronomical facilities located there. But protests prevented construction from starting. A legal dispute ended in a ruling in favor of the telescope. When construction was supposed to actually begin, new protests and the closure of the only access road prevented it again. Representatives of the Polynesian indigenous people oppose the giant telescope because Mauna Kea is sacred in their mythology. Work is already underway on GMT with its 24.5-meter mirror.

The discussion on how to proceed with the work with the two giant telescopes is also taking place against the backdrop of steady work on the European Southern Observatory's Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) – also in Chile. It is already more than half complete, and the first parts of the 40-metre-long main mirror are now being delivered. By 2028, the world's largest telescope is scheduled to begin its scientific work and provide answers to fundamental questions in astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology. But since there are many more interesting research objects than there is observation time, any giant telescope that is not built will be a loss to astronomy, Science says.


To the home page