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August 29, 2009

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China, US talk over eye on the universe

ASTRONOMERS from China and the United States are considering cooperating on the world's largest telescope, through which scientists will have a deeper insight into the very early stages of the universe.

The Thirty-Meter-Telescope (TMT) was conceived and headed by University of California and California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and is expected to be completed in 2019.

"It is a big undertaking and it will define the future of astronomy and astrophysics for about 60 or 70 years, so it will automatically involve a large international community," Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau said yesterday.

Chameau, together with Henry T. Yang, Chancellor of the University of California, Santa Barbara, is in China, talking with astronomers and scientists about cooperation in financing and technology, but no final decision has been made for China's participation.

Canada and Japan have signed up to the TMT project, which needs total financing of US$1 billion.

"Given the large amount of investment, advanced technology and strict selection of observation location, the TMT project needs international cooperation," said Chen Jiansheng, an astronomy professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

China has observer status on the TMT project, and will become a partner after signing a memorandum of understanding and agreeing on commitment of funds, according to guidelines.

The telescope, with a mirror 30 meters in diameter, will have the sharpest view possible of the universe and will pick up images of galaxies and stars forming 13 billion light years away.

The telescope will be located atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.


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