Dear TMT Friends,
On November 4, the United States (US) National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released the Astro2020 Decadal Survey report Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics in the 2020s (Pathways to Discovery), containing recommendations for developing a robust and ambitious US astronomy program for the next decade. We, the Science Advisory Committee (SAC) for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), are delighted that Pathways to Discovery recommends that the US federal government should support the US Extremely Large Telescope Program, which consists of partnership in TMT in the northern hemisphere, the Giant Magellan Telescope in the southern hemisphere, with NSF’s NOIRLab providing science support services for the global GMT/TMT user community. This program has the goal of providing US-based astronomers access to next-generation telescopes with all-sky viewing coverage. The report states, "Because of the transformative potential that large (20–40 m) telescopes with diffraction-limited adaptive optics have for astronomy, and because of the readiness of the projects, the survey committee’s top recommendation for frontier ground-based observatories is investment in the US ELT program.” Under this plan, the US national community would join Caltech, Canada, China, India, Japan, and the University of California system as partners in TMT.
When built, TMT will produce breakthroughs across a wide range of scientific topics, ensuring a generational legacy of discovery with leadership in optical/infrared astronomy for the TMT partners. TMT will provide an unparalleled view of the Northern Sky and all its unique astronomical targets. The main strength of TMT will be the extraordinarily high angular resolution enabled by the stability and quality of the atmosphere above both the preferred site and the alternate site.
The SAC supports the continuing efforts and engagement of the TMT International Observatory to better understand how to be an appropriate and meaningful partner in the local host community. These efforts are aligned with the recommendations from Pathways to Discovery, “NSF, NASA, DOE, facility managing organizations, project consortia, individual institutions, and other stakeholders can work to build partnerships with Indigenous and local communities that are more functional and sustained through a Community Astronomy approach, and by increasing the modes of engagement and funding for: (i) meaningful, mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous and local communities, (ii) culturally supported pathways for the inclusion of Indigenous members within the profession, and (iii) true sustainability, preservation, and restoration of sites.”
We thank the US National Academies and the Decadal Survey committees for their long effort and thoughtful consideration, and we are excited that Pathways to Discovery has recommended that the US federal agencies support the US ELT Program. We look forward to working together with all partner communities to make TMT a reality and initiate this new era of exploration of the Universe.
Please join us for a discussion on the future of TMT at upcoming webinars.
TMT Science Advisory Committee