What is Thirty Meter Telescope and why is it significant for India? | Technology News

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is a revolutionary class of extremely large telescopes that will enable us to explore deeper into space and observe cosmic objects with unparalleled sensitivity.

Indian scientists have developed an open-source tool to generate an infrared star catalogue for the Adaptive Optics System (AOS) of the TMT. This advancement is crucial for the telescope’s ability to generate sharper astronomical images.

What is Thirty Meter Telescope project?

This is an ambitious international project involving India, the United States, Canada, China, and Japan that aims to significantly advance our understanding of the universe. The TMT is a next-generation astronomical observatory designed to provide unprecedented resolution and sensitivity with its massive 30-meter primary mirror, advanced adaptive optics system, and state-of-the-art instruments.

The primary goals of the TMT are to:

  • Study the early universe and the formation and evolution of the first galaxies and stars after the Big Bang.
  • Investigate the formation, structure, and evolution of galaxies across cosmic time.
  • Study the relationship between supermassive black holes and their host galaxies.
  • Investigate the formation of stars and planetary systems.
  • Characterize exoplanets and study their atmospheres.

The preferred site for the TMT is Mauna Kea, Hawaii, one of the world’s premier astronomical sites. However, due to conflicts with indigenous Hawaiians who consider the site sacred, alternative locations such as the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain, are being explored.

Key Features of the TMT

Mirror System

Primary Mirror: 30 meters in diameter, composed of 492 hexagonal segments.

Secondary Mirror: Composed of 118 smaller hexagonal segments.

Tertiary Mirror: 3.5 meters by 2.5 meters, positioned centrally within the primary mirror.

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TMT A schematic diagram illustrating the working of an AO system in a telescope. (Photo: PIB/TMT International Observatory)

Adaptive Optics System

The TMT’s AOS, known as the Narrow Field Infrared Adaptive Optics System (NFIRAOS), uses deformable mirrors and laser guide stars to correct atmospheric turbulence, enhancing image resolution. Indian scientists have developed a tool to generate a comprehensive all-sky catalogue of NIR stars for this system.

Scientific Instruments

The TMT will feature instruments like the Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (IRIS) and the Wide-Field Optical Spectrograph (WFOS) for various observations.

Why is it significant for India?

With contributions from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru, the Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, and the Aryabhatta Research Institute for Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital, India is seen as a major contributor to the TMT project, providing hardware, instrumentation, software, and funding worth $200 million.

The new tool developed by Indian researchers will help mitigate atmospheric distortions by creating an all-sky NIR star catalogue, ensuring high-quality images from the TMT.

Researchers at the IIA in Bengaluru, led by Dr. Sarang Shah, have developed an automated code to generate this catalogue, essential for the NFIRAOS to function optimally. This tool will enable the TMT to use Natural Guide Stars (NGS) to correct atmospheric effects, crucial for its successful operation.

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First uploaded on: 11-07-2024 at 23:05 IST

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