Press Release

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Awards $17.5 Million for 30 meter Telescope Plans

By SpaceRef Editor
December 17, 2003
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SANTA CRUZ, CA–The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded $17.5
million to the University of California for collaboration with the
California Institute of Technology on a project intended to build the
world’s most powerful telescope. Coupled with an award by the
Foundation to Caltech for the same amount, a total of $35 million is
now available for the two institutions to collaborate on this
visionary project to build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Their
next step will be to work together to formulate detailed design plans
for the telescope.

A 30-meter-diameter optical and infrared telescope, complete with
adaptive optics, would result in images more than 12 times sharper
than those of the Hubble Space Telescope. The TMT will have nine
times the light-gathering ability of one of the 10-meter Keck
Telescopes, which are currently the largest in the world. With such a
telescope, astrophysicists will be able to study the earliest
galaxies and the details of their formation as well as pinpoint the
processes that lead to young planetary systems around nearby stars.

“We are very pleased that the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has
recognized the strengths of the University of California and Caltech
to carry out such an important project,” said UC President Robert C.
Dynes. “The giant telescope will help our astronomy faculty stay at
the very forefront of that dynamic field of science.”

“The University of California and Caltech will work in close and
constant collaboration to achieve the goals of the design effort,”
said Joseph Miller, director of UC Observatories/Lick Observatory,
headquartered at UC Santa Cruz. “We’ve also entered into
collaborations with the Association of Universities for Research in
Astronomy and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research
in Astronomy, both of whom are in the process of seeking major
funding.”

According to Richard Ellis, director of Caltech Optical Observatories
and Steele Professor of Astronomy at Caltech, the Gordon and Betty
Moore Foundation’s award will provide the crucial funding needed to
address the major areas of risk in this large project.

“This next phase is of central importance, because in the course of
carrying it out, we will establish the fundamental technologies and
methods necessary for the building of the telescope,” Ellis said.

Miller and Ellis agree that the TMT is a natural project for UC and
Caltech to undertake jointly, given their decades of experience as
collaborators in constructing, operating, and conducting science with
the world’s largest telescopes at the Keck Observatory. The TMT
design is a natural evolution of the Keck Telescope design, and many
of the same UC and Caltech scientists involved in the creation of the
Keck Observatory are deeply involved in the TMT project.

Following the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation-funded design study,
the final phase of the project, not yet funded, will be construction
of the observatory at an as yet undetermined site. The end of this
phase would mark the beginning of regular astronomical observations,
perhaps by 2012.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation was established in November
2000, by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife Betty. The
Foundation funds outcome-based projects that will measurably improve
the quality of life by creating positive outcomes for future
generations. Grantmaking is concentrated in initiatives that support
the Foundation’s principal areas of concern: environmental
conservation, science, higher education, and the San Francisco Bay
Area.

SpaceRef staff editor.