The Thirty Meter Telescope project to build the largest telescope ever built reached a major milestone this week as all countries supporting the project signed the master agreement to collaboratively build it. The telescope will be built on the summit of the dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii and will have a thirty meter aperture mirror which is three times the size of the largest existing telescopes currently (the 10 m GTC in Spain and Keck 1 and 2 in Hawaii).
The thirty meter mirror will be made of 492 hexagonal segment mirrors which will be actively controlled (moving millions of times per second) to adjust for atmospheric turbulence and give the effect of observing from space. This will make it the most accurate and sensitive telescope ever built. In fact it will have provide 12 times sharper images than the famous, but now decommissioned Hubble Space Telescope.
One of the main objectives for the TMT is to be the first to take actual pictures of Exoplanets (planets outside the solar system). So far hundreds of Exoplanets have been discovered and we know that billions exist just in our galaxy but not one has been photographed and seen! The TMT will also try to detect dark matter and peer into the furthest parts of our universe. The project is being funded and collaboratively built by five countries, USA, Canada, Japan, China and INDIA. However we will have to wait a few years for pictures of another Earth since the TMT will only be completed in 2022.
Photo Credits: Image: Wired
References: tmt.org, Wired