January 5, 2004
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awards $17.5
million for Thirty-Meter Telescope plans
By Tim Stephens
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded $17.5 million to the University
of California for collaboration with the California Institute of Technology
on a project intended to build the world's most powerful telescope.
"The University of California and Caltech will work in
close and constant collaboration to achieve the goals of the design
effort," said Joseph Miller, director of UC Observatories/Lick
Observatory, headquartered at UCSC.
Coupled with an award by the Foundation to Caltech for the same amount,
a total of $35 million is now available for the two institutions to
collaborate on this visionary project to build the Thirty Meter Telescope
(TMT). Their next step will be to work together to formulate detailed
design plans for the telescope.
A 30-meter-diameter optical and infrared telescope, complete with adaptive
optics, would result in images more than 12 times sharper than those
of the Hubble Space Telescope. The TMT will have nine times the light-gathering
ability of one of the 10-meter Keck Telescopes, which are currently
the largest in the world. With such a telescope, astrophysicists will
be able to study the earliest galaxies and the details of their formation
as well as pinpoint the processes that lead to young planetary systems
around nearby stars.
"We are very pleased that the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
has recognized the strengths of the University of California and Caltech
to carry out such an important project," said UC President Robert
C. Dynes. "The giant telescope will help our astronomy faculty
stay at the very forefront of that dynamic field of science."
"The University of California and Caltech will work in close and
constant collaboration to achieve the goals of the design effort,"
said Joseph Miller, director of UC Observatories/Lick Observatory, headquartered
at UCSC. "We've also entered into collaborations with the Association
of Universities for Research in Astronomy and the Association of Canadian
Universities for Research in Astronomy, both of whom are in the process
of seeking major funding."
According to Richard Ellis, director of Caltech Optical Observatories
and Steele Professor of Astronomy at Caltech, the Gordon and Betty Moore
Foundation's award will provide the crucial funding needed to address
the major areas of risk in this large project.
"This next phase is of central importance, because in the course
of carrying it out, we will establish the fundamental technologies and
methods necessary for the building of the telescope," Ellis said.
Miller and Ellis agree that the TMT is a natural project for UC and
Caltech to undertake jointly, given their decades of experience as collaborators
in constructing, operating, and conducting science with the world's
largest telescopes at the Keck Observatory. The TMT design is a natural
evolution of the Keck Telescope design, and many of the same UC and
Caltech scientists involved in the creation of the Keck Observatory
are deeply involved in the TMT project.
Following the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation-funded design study,
the final phase of the project, not yet funded, will be construction
of the observatory at an as-yet-undetermined site. The end of this phase
would mark the beginning of regular astronomical observations, perhaps
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation was established in November 2000,
by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty. The foundation
funds outcome-based projects that will measurably improve the quality
of life by creating positive outcomes for future generations. Grantmaking
is concentrated in initiatives that support the foundation's principal
areas of concern: environmental conservation, science, higher education,
and selected San Francisco Bay Area opportunities and institutions.
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