VANCOUVER – Canadian companies will play a significant role in constructing what’s billed as the most powerful optical telescope on Earth.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said late Monday that Canada will provide up to $243.5 million over 10 years for the Thirty Meter Telescope project, which is scheduled to begin peering into the distant reaches of the galaxy and beyond by about 2023.
When completed, the Thirty Metre Telescope will be in an observatory inside a Canadian-built enclosure 22 storeys tall with a primary mirror 30 metres across.
The US$1.5 billion telescope will be located at the summit of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano and is expected to be operational by 2023-2024.
Harper said most of Canada’s contribution will be spent in this country.
It includes the precision-steel enclosure by Dynamic Structures Ltd., based in Port Coquitlam, B.C., and cutting-edge adaptive optics technologies, to be developed by the National Research Council along with Canadian companies.
The enclosure will incorporate a design to protect the telescope from both temperature and winds and the advanced optics will allow for the correction of atmospheric turbulence to better see some of the faintest celestial objects and bodies.
Harper said by contributing to the project, Canada will secure a viewing share for Canadian researchers once the telescope is operational in 2023-2024.
“Our participation in the Thirty Meter Telescope project will generate new capabilities and technologies in Canada which will help create and maintain high-quality jobs in communities across the country,” Harper said.
The University of British Columbia said the telescope promises sharper images than the Hubble space telescope “and will help astronomers working on some of the greatest scientific mysteries to study the outer reaches of the known universe.”
“This commitment to the Thirty Meter Telescope project will help ensure Canadian scientists remain at the forefront of this field,” said UBC president Arvind Gupta.
University of Toronto president Meric Gertler added that Canada’s contributions will lead to the “development of sophisticated new optical, mechanical, electrical and software systems, with implications for a range of industries.”
The website for the project says the telescope will “enable astronomers to study objects in our own solar system and stars throughout our Milky Way and its neighbouring galaxies, and forming galaxies at the very edge of the observable universe, near the beginning of time.”
Japan, China, India and the United States are also part of the project.