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China-Backed Thirty Meter Telescope To Begin Construction In Hawaii

August 4, 2014

Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), for which China provides a number of high-tech components, has been greenlighted by local authorities in Hawaii, announced the international non-profit organization for the project, the TMT International Observatory (TIO).

At the end of July, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a sublease for the telescope's construction at the summit of the dormant volcano Mauna Kea. Considered one of the planet's best sites for astronomical observation, it is also home to many of the world's premier observatories. Construction work for the TMT will enable a site dedication ceremony, which is proposed for October.

Just like its name suggests, the telescope will have a 30-meter (98.4 feet) wide mirror. Most of its components are currently developed in China, including its fully articulated main science steering mirror system, the director general of the National Astronomical Observatories of China Yan Jun explained.

Other parts built in the country include its lasers and laser star guide system - the technology that allows the telescope to reduce the blurring effect of the Earth's atmosphere. Japan, in turn, has developed 60 mirror blanks made from special zero-expansion glass, the shape of which doesn't alter as a result of variations in temperature.

Founded in May 2014, TIO is a non-profit limited liability company that combines the efforts of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences in Japan, and the University of California. Canada and India are currently associate members of the organization and are aiming to join by 2015.

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