TMT Supporting Science

//TMT Supporting Science

It is no coincidence that the ideal location on Earth in which to peer into the heavens is here in Hawaii, a place where science and spirituality have long been woven into the fabric of everyday culture. Maunakea is a symbol of that spirit – a celestial gateway that beckons the scientist and explorer in all of us, inspiring us to reach back through time to discover our shared, universal ancestry.

“After a worldwide search, scientists found that Mauna Kea is the best site on earth for the most advanced telescope ever built. Mauna Kea will forever be known throughout the world as the site of profound discoveries about the universe.”

– Board of Land & Natural Resources, 2017 Decision & Order, page iii


TMT will be three times as wide, with nine times more area, than the largest existing visible-light telescope in the world, delivering sharper and deeper images that simply are not possible with existing, or planned, ground based telescopes. As a result, astronomers will be able to see much fainter and more distant objects to study them in greater detail. This, in turn, will allow us to reach back 13 billion years to answer fundamental questions about the advent of the universe.

TMT will integrate the latest innovations in precision control, segmented mirror design and adaptive optics. With the adaptive optics system that corrects the image distortion caused by the atmosphere, it will be able to provide images ten times sharper than the ones obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Today’s cutting-edge telescopes are making surprising discoveries about new planets, interacting galaxies, and the incredibly powerful death throes of supermassive stars at the edge of the observable Universe. To maintain this exciting pace of discovery, astronomers and engineers are pushing the boundaries of today’s technology while simultaneously creating the innovations that will make TMT the most advanced and capable telescope on Earth.

Using TMT, astronomers will be able to see further into our universe and reach back toward the very beginning of time. In the nearby universe, with TMT, astronomers will be able to discover and characterize, in detail, planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. There is the potential to examine these planets for signs of life beyond the Earth: this would be one of the most important discoveries of all time.

Based on the history of leaps forward in capability of this size, TMT will enable discoveries that we cannot even begin to anticipate today.

To view TMT’s science goals, visit


The unique conditions and location make Maunakea an unequaled site for telescopes. It’s been said that the “best night” at other telescope locations is just an “average” night on Maunakea. And the “best nights” on Maunakea cannot be found anywhere in the world. In fact, following a rigorous five-year site testing campaign spanning the entire globe, the best conditions ever encountered were always at Maunakea.



Maunakea is one of the best places on earth to view the stars.

During last month’s state land board hearing in Hilo, we had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Michael Bolte, a member of TMT’s Board of Governors and Science Advisory Committee. Dr. Bolte talked about the potential scientific discoveries that the Thirty Meter Telescope could make, and how the general public already benefits from technological advances made by the astronomy industry.

TMT executive director Edward Stone traveled from California to testify as an expert witness on the Thirty Meter Telescope project. Along with talking about the scientific benefits, Stone briefly touched on the potential socioeconomic benefits related to employment and education by bringing the TMT project to Hawaii, through opportunities in training, education and jobs in STEM fields.