Advancements in Thirty Meter Telescope Project

The April 2010 issue of Segments, the quarterly newsletter of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Project, describes the progress TMT has made in the polishing of its primary mirror segments, acquiring sodium lasers for its adaptive optics system, and the role TMT will play in the hunt for extra-solar planets.

Mirror Polishing Shines with New Methods

One of the most important milestones in the development and construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is the precision polishing of TMT’s primary mirror segments. One of the potential suppliers for TMT’s mirror segments, Tinsley Laboratories, recently demonstrated the potential of faster, more efficient polishing methods.

BrighterFuture for Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics

TMT will use laser guide star (LGS) adaptive optics to cancel the blurring effects of the atmosphere and obtain image quality virtually as sharp as can be achieved by a telescope in space. To date, development of an LGS system has been hampered because no known solid-state laser concept operates at precisely the right wavelength for adaptive optics. Preliminary design studies of two new systems indicated that very successful solutions have been found. The studies confirm the reality of critical building blocks for the TMT adaptive optics system.

TMT and the Search for Extrasolar Planets

More than 400 planets have been detected outside our solar system. TMT’s first-light adaptive optics system (NFIRAOS) and integral field spectrograph (IRIS) will be able to detect many more and provide high-quality spectra of planets. Engineers are also designing the TMT Planet Formation Imager (PFI), which will be able to study anything from a mature solar system – seeing the light reflected by Jupiter- or even Neptune-sized planets – to the planets that are forming even now near young stars in the Taurus and Ophiucus regions. PFI may even be able to detect a handful of “Super-earths” (watery planets only twice the size of our own) around the very nearest stars.

TMT Partners with Discover Magazine and Caltech on “Quest for a Living World”

Join Discover magazine and author-blogger-astronomer Phil Plait (of Bad Astronomy fame) as they bring together the new breed of planet hunters to debate what’s next in the search for Earth-like worlds. Produced in partnership with the Thirty Meter Telescope Project (TMT) and hosted by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), “The Quest for a Living World” will be held April 21 at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium beginning at 7:30 p.m.

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