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General Manager, Atlas Daylighting LLC

Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)



 

As the foremost designer and builder of observatory telescopes, Dynamic Structures Ltd. is proud to be involved in a grand project which will result in the largest optical telescope ever built.

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) derives its name from the size of the telescope�s circular mirror reflector which will measure 30 metres across. In turn, the large reflector is made up of many smaller mirrors and will boast sensitivity almost 100 times greater than existing telescopes. When completed, the $990-million project will stand in an observatory 22 stories tall.

Located on the Big Island of Hawaii atop inactive volcano Mauna Kea, the TMT is a joint Canada-U.S. venture headed up by the Associated Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, the University of California, and the California Institute of Technology. The project began in 2004 and is expected to see �first light� by 2018.

Technology

The TMT will employ an advanced application of �adaptive optics� which uses lasers to create an artificial star to map optical aberrations caused by Earth�s atmosphere. The reflectors will be connected to 3,000 actuators that alter the shape of the mirror hundreds of times per second, reshaping light waves as they enter the telescope to compensate for optical turbulence.

�The system is trying to make the telescope believe that the atmosphere isn�t there,� says David Halliday, President of Dynamic Structures. �Using this system, ground-based astronomy will achieve image quality better than the Hubble Space Telescope. However, as the need for precision increases, so does the requirement for the components to remain stiff, because you can�t correct for frequencies below a certain level. Making very stiff structures also means making them heavier.�

TMT�s enclosure will incorporate a new design to protect the telescope both from temperature variations and winds. Rather than a traditional �slot design�, the TMT is designed with a spherical enclosure and a circular aperture that match the reflector�s field of view, minimizing the exposure of the reflector to outside elements. This limits the number of moving parts and reduces the weight of the overall enclosure by 2,000 to 4,000 tonnes � down to only 1,500 tonnes.

Construction

Once the metal components - including 4,000 insulated roof panels - are fabricated in Canada, they�ll be shipped to Hawaii and construction will begin. Assembly will take place over a three-year period using a crew of up to 100. Technical and management staff will primarily be drawn from Dynamic Structures with much of the construction labour hired from Hawaii and the mainland.
�One of the construction challenges is working in the hostile environment at 14,000 feet,� says Halliday. �The health of the workers is extremely important and all of the individuals who work on the project are medically tested beforehand.�

History

Dynamic Structures is considered the world-leader in detailed design, manufacturing and on-site construction of complex telescope and observatory enclosures. Our first high-altitude enclosure, was designed and built for the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, on Mauna Kea in 1979. Since then we have been involved in many significant telescope projects including: two Gemini enclosures (Mauna Kea), The Sir William Herschel (Chile), the Sir Isaac Newton Telescope Enclosures (Canary Islands), and the W. M. Keck Telescope Enclosure and the W.M. Keck II Telescope (Mauna Kea).

Anything you can dream� we can build.

More Images

  • Concept - TMT 01
  • Concept - TMT 02
  • Concept - TMT 03
  • Concept - TMT 04
  • TMT Side View
  • TMT Top View