Coalition for Canadian Astronomy Welcomes Canada's Commitment to Construction Funding for the Thirty Meter Telescope Project

Funding will create jobs and cement Canada's leadership in Astronomy and Astrophysics

VANCOUVER, April 7, 2015 /CNW/ - The Coalition for Canadian Astronomy welcomes Canada's commitment to construction funding for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), announced last night by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Industry Minister James Moore at the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver.

"The TMT will be the world's most powerful ground-based telescope, and by committing to construction funding the Government of Canada has cemented this country's long-term participation in the project.  As a result, Canada's astronomers and astrophysicists are well-positioned to maintain their world leadership in this field, and our universities will continue to attract the top faculty and students," stated Don Brooks, Chair of the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA) and Coalition Co-Chair for universities. 

"The support of the 20 member universities of ACURA was vital to obtaining the Government's support for this project," added Brooks. 

The TMT was conceived and designed by Canadian astronomers and industry together with their partners in China, India, Japan, the University of California and the California Institute of Technology. The TMT concentrates nine times the light into one-ninth the area, which will make it 81 times more powerful than the current best telescope.  The TMT will examine the first stars to form in the universe, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way and the atmospheres and other properties of planets within the habitable zones of other stars.

"The TMT is the top priority in Canada's Long Range Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics, our roadmap to continued international leadership in this field.  Canada's astronomers can point to this announcement for decades to come as a critical moment in furthering our excellence in the field," stated Christine Wilson, President of the Canadian Astronomical Society and Coalition Co-Chair representing professional astronomers.

The announcement will also ensure that two critical telescope elements, the enclosure and the TMT's adaptive optics system, are built in Canada.  The Coalition has already identified over 20 Canadian companies that will be involved in TMT construction.  Construction of these two telescope elements in Canada will generate high quality jobs in skilled manufacturing and adaptive optics with enormous potential for spin-off technologies.  For example, a 2014 report prepared for the National Research Council projected the market for TMT-related technologies will be over $500 billion by 2019.

"All Canadians should be immensely proud of the fact that two critical elements of the TMT have been entrusted to Canadian industry for construction.  Our companies can compete against anyone in the world when given the opportunity, and we are extremely grateful for this commitment from the Prime Minister that allows us to build what Canadian industry designed, creating high value jobs as a direct result of science investments," stated Guy Nelson, President and CEO of Empire Industries and Coalition Co-Chair for Industry.

Canada's $243.5 million contribution to TMT construction will ensure a significant ownership interest in the international partnership that entitles Canada's world-class astronomers to an equivalent amount of the research time on the TMT after it is commissioned.

"The Coalition wishes to thank the Prime Minister, Industry Minister James Moore and all those within the Federal Government who have contributed to this announcement.  A decade of work has gone into the design of TMT and it is an incredibly exciting moment for science in Canada for this once-in-a-generation project to be moving into the construction phase," added Brooks. 

About the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy

The Coalition for Canadian Astronomy was formed in 2000 and brings together all Canada's astronomy stakeholders to focus on a plan for international excellence in the field.  The Coalition is comprised of:

  • Universities: represented by the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), which has 20 member universities (www.universityastronomy.ca);
  • Professional astronomers: represented by the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA, www.casca.ca);
  • Industry: bringing together Canadian companies involved in major astronomy projects.

The Coalition's road map to international leadership in this field is the Long Range Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics, or LRP.  The LRP vision document was created by a Blue Ribbon Panel to chart a course for Canadian astronomy.  It calls for Canadian participation in the next generation of global astronomy projects, coupled with investments in technology development in Canada, the training of young Canadian scientists and engineers, and intellectual leadership in the planning and operation of facilities by Canadian astronomers. 

SOURCE Coalition for Canadian Astronomy

For further information: Ray Carlberg, Canadian TMT Project Director, 416- 978-2198, carlberg@astro.utoronto.ca; Christine Wilson, President, Canadian Astronomical Society, 905-525-9140, x27483, casca-president@casca.ca; Ernie Seaquist, Executive Director, Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, 416-792-6809, seaquist@astro.utoronto.ca

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Coalition for Canadian Astronomy

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