HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite a pause in construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, key portions of the observatory are still being built.
Engineers recently completed work on two large circular discs for the scope’s primary mirror. Altogether, there will be about 490 of them, and each piece weighs 550 pounds.
TMT officials had hoped to resume work on Mauna Kea this Spring, however they say pandemic-related travel and safety challenges are stalling work.
“We continue to assess a number of factors impacting TMT’s timeline and schedule. Because of the ongoing pandemic, there are travel restrictions and health and safety measures in place, as well as varying challenges posed by the pandemic across the partnership. We continue to make progress in most areas of the project, doing the work we can safely do in the partner countries by advancing the different components of the telescope, including the telescope mirrors,” TMT Vice President of External Relations Gordon Squires said.
He added that they are also waiting recommendations from the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, which will determine how the project’s funding will be prioritized. That is expected later this year.
The development of the discs however are seen by engineers as a milestone in the project.
“This milestone has been nearly three years in the making,” said production project manager Greg Feller. “We know that this project is important and is being closely monitored by our customer community as well as our own internal team.”
Coherent, the company producing the mirrors, is looking forward to their next step of ‘hexing,’ or creating hexagonal segments that will eventually be a major part of TMT’s primary mirror.
The overall timeline for the project remains unclear.