India signs up for multi-crore TMT project

In this artist rendition provided by TMT, the Thirty Meter Telescope is seen. China and India have signed on to be partners for a project to build the Thirty Meter Telescope, which will be the world's largest when it's finished in 2018, at the summit of Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. It's the first time either nation has joined a major telescope involved in research on the frontiers of astronomy. The TMT observatory will be so powerful it will allow scientists to see some 13 billion light years away and get a glimpse into the early years of the universe.
AP In this artist rendition provided by TMT, the Thirty Meter Telescope is seen. China and India have signed on to be partners for a project to build the Thirty Meter Telescope, which will be the world’s largest when it’s finished in 2018, at the summit of Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. It’s the first time either nation has joined a major telescope involved in research on the frontiers of astronomy. The TMT observatory will be so powerful it will allow scientists to see some 13 billion light years away and get a glimpse into the early years of the universe.

The Centre has agreed to spend Rs. 1299.8 crores over the next decade for the development of the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii.

On Tuesday, Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan signed a multilateral agreement admitting India‘s participation in the development of the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii.

This project was rapidly cleared by the Union Cabinet and India has agreed to spend Rs. 1299.8 crores over the next decade for this project. Besides learning about the universe, India will gain the technology to manufacture fine aspherical mirror segments from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). This technology, say experts, will form the basis of the next generation of spy satellites.

TMT will contain 492 hexagonal mirror segments of 82 different kinds. These will behave like a single mirror with an aperture of 30 metre diameter. This large collecting area of 650 square metres is thrice as sensitive as the Hubble Space Telescope. India’s role will primarily be to create the control systems and software that keep the mirrors aligned and collects the data.

The control system is an intricate process involving edge sensors—that detect the mutual displacement of mirrors, actuators to correct their alignment, and the segment support assembly. These will be manufactured by General Optics (Asia) in Puducherry, Avasarala Technolgies and Godrej in Bengaluru respectively.

GC Anupama of Indian Institute of Astrophysics explained that India will also manufacture 100 aspherical mirror segments in Hoskote, near Bengaluru. “These thin glass slabs made in Japan have minimal expansion when heated. We will apply a protective layer and a reflective coating using technology from Caltech,” she told the Hindu.

“Initially we will start off by producing two a year and after the technology transfer is complete we will make one every fortnight,” she added. The telescope is expected to be completed by 2024.

The James Webb Space Telescope, to be launched in 2018 by the US, with European and Canadian collaboration, also uses segmented mirrors. These are being designed to deploy and form a mirror after being delivered into its orbit.

AN Ramaprakash, India Co-Chair of TMT explained that telescopes when turned towards the earth are spy satellites. “They can resolve structures up to the size of man walking on the Earth. Segmented mirrors are the next generation in telescope technology and gaining this expertise is a huge leap for us,” he told this paper.

Institutions from the United States of America, Canada, Japan and China are also participating in the construction of the world’s largest telescope on Mount Mauna Kea. This telescope, 4207 metres above sea level, may cost more than 1.47 billion US dollars. Through it we hope to find answers to fundamental questions about the universe. These include, how and when the first galaxies were formed, does life exist outside the Earth, the constitution of black holes and the nature of the universe’s acceleration.

India’s Departments of Science and Technology and Atomic Energy are funding the project in which IIA, Bangalore, Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune will participate. (by The hindu)

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