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China, US discuss co-op on world's largest telescope
Updated: 2009-08-28 23:33

BEIJING: 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.

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"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," said Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau in an interview with Xinhua on Friday.

Chameau, together with Henry T. Yang, Chancellor of University of California, Santa Barbara, is in China, talking with Chinese 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 and academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

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.

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.

But the TMT could be overtaken by two rival large telescope projects.

European countries are planning the European Extremely Large Telescope, which will have a mirror with a 42-meter diameter. Another group in the United States is working on the Giant Magellan Telescope, with a 24-meter mirror.