The telescope is the main component of the ambitious Thirty Metre Telescope project and the largest of its kind in the world. India is a partner in the huge endeavour, along with Canada, China, Japan and the US.The telescope, operating in wavelengths ranging from the ultraviolet to the mid-infrared, is an essential tool to address questions in astronomy ranging from understanding star and planet formation to unraveling the history of galaxies and the development of large-scale structure in the universe.
The Indian portion of the project is being handled by the Ministry of Science and Technology and Department of Atomic Energy.
The project, which is aimed at exploring the furthest reaches of the universe, was initially slated to come up on the Hawaiian mountain Mauna Kea. However, widespread protests in Hawaii by the local population and the indigenous people against the project has meant that alternative sites need to be found.
Bacham Eswar Reddy, Programme Director for the TMT project said: “The construction was expected to start on Mauna Kea, Hawaii in 2015. However, it is now stalled due to the recent decision of the Supreme court of Hawaii revoking the construction permit on procedural grounds.”
Reddy added that “the State of Hawaii and several agencies are working on the permit process following the prescribed procedure by the court. TMT is pursuing the matter in consultation with the University of Hawaii (land leaseholder) and other agencies. It seeks to construct TMT on Mauna Kea which is the preferred choice,” said B
However, Indian officials hope that Hawaii’s loss may turn out to be Ladakh’s gain.
Othes sites being considered include areas in Chile and some in both the northern and southern hemispheres. “We have to consider financial, logistical, technical and other factors before taking a decison, considering the importance of the project.”
“It is expected that on-site civil work on the project may be delayed by about 18-24 months. However, work on telescope and observatory subsystems continues across the partnership,” Reddy added. “The project is expected to improve employment opportunities for the local people besides development of the region. TMT being the largest optical and infrared telescope in the northern hemisphere will strengthen the domestic programme of the country in this field and lead to several discoveries, which will inspire future generations.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Science and Technology said that if the project comes to |India, “it will also help develop state-of-the-art high end technologies and expertise in the country.” – CINEWS