US-ELTP & Astro2020

/US-ELTP & Astro2020

The US-ELT Program

The National Science Foundation’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab), the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization, and the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory (TIO) are working collaboratively to develop a U.S. Extremely Large Telescope Program. The vision of the U.S. Extremely Large Telescope Program is to allow scientists to look more deeply and more precisely into the night sky than ever before. The dual hemisphere model will provide access to 100 percent of the night sky to make the next generation of discoveries about our universe.

The combined apertures of TMT and Giant Magellan Telescope are comparable to that of the single European ELT, but for many scientific programs, access to two telescopes and a diverse instrument suite offers clear advantages.  All-sky coverage enables observation of relatively rare phenomena (e.g., the number of observable rocky planets in the habitable zone is predicted to be small), unique targets in each hemisphere (e.g., Magellanic Clouds in the Southern Hemisphere, Andromeda group galaxies in the North), and key survey fields with unique multiwavelength data sets (e.g., GOODS-North and -South; LSST Deep Drilling fields; the Kepler main survey field; ecliptic pole deep survey regions for TESS, Euclid, WFIRST and JWST).

Together, Giant Magellan Telescope and TMT will access the full celestial sphere, with roughly 50% sky overlap allowing their complementary instrument suites to be used for joint or even simultaneous investigation of many objects. In addition to separation in latitude, their different longitudes create valuable opportunities for time-domain research, especially for rapidly changing phenomena that benefit from high-cadence observations. Finally, two platforms can offer a greater variety of instrumentation than would be available on a single telescope, and more observing hours to support long term variability and large scale programs that would otherwise require many years to complete.


What is the Decadal Survey?
Every 10 years, the U.S. National Academies of the Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convenes a survey committee and supporting study panels to carry out a Decadal Survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The overall goal of the Survey is to evaluate the projects and programs that will be prioritized for the coming decade. The Decadal Survey for the 2020 decade began in early 2019 and is referred to as Astro2020.

Did TMT participate in the Decadal Survey?
Yes, TMT, along with its other partners in the US-ELTP presented their science and technical readiness to the Decadal Survey Panel in February 2020.

Which organizations sponsor the Decadal Survey?
While the survey is sponsored by NASA, NSF, and DOE, it is driven by input received by the community in the form of white papers. A total of 573 science white papers were submitted as part of Astro2020.

What does a high ranking in the Decadal Survey mean?
A high ranking in the Decadal means that a project has been identified by the science committee as a high-priority research activity for astronomy and astrophysics for the coming decade.

Latest News