Today the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a cooperative agreement to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Observatory Corporation to explore a potential partnership between the organizations.
The award is a milestone for the TMT project, initiating a broad dialog between TMT, the NSF and the United States' astronomical community. The partnership-planning award also paves the way for the NSF to confer with TMT's international partners.
"The NSF award is a key development in our vision for TMT," said Henry Yang, Chancellor of the University of California - Santa Barbara, and Chair of the TMT Collaborative Board. "The full promise of this revolutionary telescope will be realizable with the engagement of the national astronomical community."
The NSF award allocates $250,000 per year for five years to partnership-planning activities that include scientific workshops and participation by U.S. scientists in the TMT Science Advisory Committee and the TMT Collaborative Board. The five-year program of engagement and planning will deliver a plan that addresses science, education and public outreach, instrumentation, and operation of the facility from the perspective of the U.S. astronomy community. This plan will be developed and refined in a series of joint meetings bringing together all U.S. and international stakeholders.
The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, AZ will play an important role in carrying out the activities of the cooperative agreement. NOAO will establish a U.S. TMT liaison activity within its System Community Development group and NOAO astronomer Todd Boroson has been selected as the U.S. TMT Liaison Scientist.
"With this award by the NSF, an important process has begun of engaging the astronomical community in the ongoing design and development of TMT," said Boroson. "Astronomers nationwide have a great opportunity to offer their expertise in advancing the TMT project."
The TMT partnership plans to initiate construction in 2014. At present, the NSF does not commit to helping fund the construction costs of TMT; however TMT planning allows the entry of the NSF later in the construction period. TMT's development plan calls for it to provide valuable research opportunities and discoveries for 50 years.
As the partnership planning moves ahead as a result of the NSF award, international partner organizations and their governments will soon be able to consult more closely on TMT's development.
"We are delighted by the dialog the NSF partnership-planning award enables. This elevates the dialog to the national and international levels," said Ed Stone, David Morrisroe Professor of Physics at Caltech, and Vice-Chair of the TMT Collaborative Board.
TMT is the next-generation astronomical observatory scheduled to begin scientific operations in 2021 on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. TMT is a collaboration of California Institute of Technology, University of California, the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, a consortium of Chinese institutions led by the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and institutions in India supported by the Department of Science and Technology of India. Major funding for TMT has been provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
For more information about TMT: http://www.tmt.org
About the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established in 2000, seeks to advance scientific research, environmental conservation and patient care. The foundation's Science Program has committed $250 million to fund the design, development and construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). For more information, please visit http://www.moore.org.
Gordon K. Squires
TMT Communications & Outreach Lead
U.S. TMT Liaison Scientist
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