India Joins The Thirty Meter Telescope Project as a Full Member

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India became a full partner in the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project after K. VijayRaghavan, secretary, department of science and technology, signed the membership agreement at the TMT International Observatory (TIO). With this, India has now secured time for its scientists at the observatory, which is expected to become operational by 2020.

When completed, TMT will enable astronomers to study objects in our solar system and stars throughout the Milky Way and its neighbouring galaxies. It will help promote understanding of fundamental issues such as the possible existence of life beyond the solar system.

In September, the Union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave its approval for India's participation in the TMT project at a total cost of Rs.1,299.8 crore from 2014 to 2023.

"It gives us great pleasure to announce that the Department of Science and Technology, the financial authority of India-TMT, has executed all the relevant documents to become a full member in the TMT International Observatory," said Eswar Reddy, programme director of TMT-India, a TMT board member and an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru.

Henry Yang, chair of the TMT International Observatory board and chancellor of the University of California, Santa Barbara, said that India's contributions in the areas of software systems, segment production and the production of very high precision sensors and actuators are key to the project.

The 30m diameter primary mirror of the telescope, being built at the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii, will consist of 492 smaller, hexagonal mirrors, 100 of which will be delivered by India. Japan, China and the US will supply the remainder and Canada will be responsible for constructing the dome. From the Indian side, this will be a joint project of the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Atomic Energy.

India has to deliver 3,444 edge sensors that will guide the actuators in aligning the segments. Earlier Reddy had said in an interview that the assembly of segment support will begin in December, while production of segment support and actuators will begin in 2015, and mirrors will be produced in 2017.

The national project will be anchored in the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) and led by IIA; Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, Nainital; and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune.



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