Future Projects

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)


The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is one of the most ambitious ground-based optical/IR astronomical projects that has ever been undertaken. TMT will be sited atop 14,000-ft Mauna Kea on Hawaii's "Big Island." TMT will join the Keck telescopes, among many other observatories built on the best astronomical site in the Northern hemisphere, and possibly the world. TMT will operate over the wavelength range 0.3-28 microns, taking advantage of Mauna Kea's stable atmospheric conditions, cold ambient temperatures, and low water vapor.

TMT's 30m-diameter primary mirror is made up of 492 segments actively controlled to maintain a near-perfect optical figure. Adaptive optics (AO) capability is fully integrated into the design, providing diffraction-limited spatial resolution from the beginning of operations. The collecting area of TMT is nearly ten times that of the twin Keck telescopes (144 times that of Hubble Space Telescope), and with diffraction-limited performance TMT will be over one hundred times as sensitive as the current generation of 8-10m telescopes and will have a spatial resolution over ten times better than HST.

TMT will address scientific questions across all of astrophysics, from cosmology and the first galaxies and black holes in the early universe, to the formation and evolution of galaxies and the intergalactic medium over the last 95% of the age of the universe, to star formation, the detection and characterization of planets around nearby stars, and the exploration of the outer solar system.

Caltech is one of the founding TMT partners (together with long-time Keck partners, the University of California) among an international collaboration. Caltech astronomers and engineers have played and will continue to play key roles in the design and construction of the telescope, AO systems, and science instruments.

The Cerro Chajnantor Atacama Telescope (CCAT)


Caltech is working with several partners to construct a large submillimeter telescope in the high Andes of northern Chile, the Cerro Chajnantor Atacama Telescope (CCAT). This facility will be instrumental in addressing fundamental questions regarding cosmic origins: the origin of galaxies and the early evolution of the universe, the formation of stars and the evolution of interstellar matter, and the histories of planetary systems.

Submillimeter astronomy is poised for major advances in the coming decade. The international ALMA interferometer will provide a powerful facility for detailed studies of individual objects. A 25m-diameter telescope optimized for wide field submillimeter imaging and surveys, CCAT is conceived to complement ALMA. With high-sensitivity continuum cameras, CCAT will have a survey speed many times higher than any other facility. CCAT will be the largest and most sensitive facility of its class.

CCAT will capitalize on continuous innovations in instrumentation to address a broad range of scientific opportunities. Pioneered at Caltech and JPL, microwave kinetic inductance detectors (MKIDs) are an emerging technology for submillimeter cameras. After successful astronomical tests of a 16 pixel, two color prototype, a 24 by 24 pixel, four color instrument is now under construction at the labs of Cahill. For CCAT, a concept long-wavelength (740–2000 µm) camera uses an MKID array to provide multicolor coverage of the field of view.