MOSCOW, July 22 (RIA Novosti) - The world's largest telescope, which could offer a glimpse into the beginning of the universe, will be built on top of the dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii, a consortium of U.S. and Canadian universities has announced.
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), named for the diameter of its primary mirror, will be able to detect light that has taken 13 billion years to reach the Earth, effectively allowing scientists to see pictures of the past, such as how stars and galaxies were formed in the early years of the universe.
TMT Observatory Corp. has selected the 4,205-meter Mauna Kea summit for its $1.2 billion project due to relatively mild weather conditions, favorable wind patterns and skies, which should allow for more than 300 nights of observation a year.
Air pollution is very low atop the volcano, which is located far from major populated areas, allowing scientists to decrease the blurring effect of the Earth's atmosphere.
"The atmospheric conditions, low average temperatures, and very low humidity will open an exciting new discovery space using adaptive optics and infrared observations," said Edward Stone, Caltech's Morrisroe Professor of Physics and vice chairman of the TMT board.
The TMT project is a collaboration of Caltech, University of California and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA). The project must still be approved by the state of Hawaii.
Mauna Kea plateau is currently home to 12 international telescopes, including Keck I and Keck II, the world's largest telescopes, each having a mirror of some 10 meters. They have held the record since the early 1990s.
The Thirty Meter Telescope may not hold the title of the world's largest telescope for nearly so long. A group of European countries is currently considering sites in Argentina, Chile, Morocco and Spain to build the European Extremely Large Telescope, which would have a 42-meter mirror.