US Extremely Large Telescope Program Receives $15.3 Million from the National Science Foundation
2 October 2023
The United States Extremely Large Telescope Program (US-ELTP) today announced it has received $15.3 million from the National Science Foundation to support further design and development of advanced optical technologies and user services. The funding consists of one-year awards of $2.3 million to NSF’s NOIRLab managed by AURA, and $6.5 million each to the organizations building the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope.
The NSF awards come after the US-ELTP was ranked as the highest ground-based priority in the Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The survey emphasized that the US-ELTP “capabilities can be brought to bear on nearly all of the important science questions laid out by this decadal survey, across all three of our key science themes.”
The US-ELTP would enable unmatched observations from ultraviolet to mid-infrared wavelengths with up to 200 times the sensitivity of today’s largest telescopes. The advanced capabilities would help answer some of the most pressing science questions by searching for signs of life on exoplanets, unraveling the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, and untangling the interconnected evolution of galaxies, black holes, and their environments.
The awards help the US-ELTP prepare for the next steps in NSF’s process to determine if it will ultimately fund construction of the telescopes. If constructed, the Thirty Meter Telescope in the Northern Hemisphere and the Giant Magellan Telescope in the Southern Hemisphere in Chile would provide astronomers in the US with nationally-funded open access to observing time on both instruments. US astronomers would have a modern suite of NOIRLab-software and user and data services designed to make maximum use of this all-sky capability through the lifecycle of scientific inquiry.
About the US Extremely Large Telescope Program
The US Extremely Large Telescope Program (US-ELTP) is a joint endeavor of NSF’s NOIRLab and the organizations building the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope. It was ranked as the highest ground-based priority in the Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The US-ELTP would provide unique access to the entire sky from the Northern and Southern hemispheres with a level of precision and sensitivity never seen before. The US-ELTP would maintain US leadership in observational astronomy well into the next generation and beyond.
Lars Lindberg Christensen
NOIRLab Head of Communications, Education & Engagement
Cell: +1 (520) 461-0433
Director of Communications & Outreach
Giant Magellan Telescope
Phone: +1 (626) 204-0554
Chief of Staff & Vice President of Communications
Thirty Meter Telescope
Phone: +1 (808) 284-9922