The prospect of a ground-based telescope that can directly see extrasolar planets, the earliest stellar systems and the birth of distant galaxies is nearing reality. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has pledged $200m for the design and construction of the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT), which is being developed by a consortium of astronomers in the US and Canada, including the California Institute of Technology and the University of California. As its name suggests, the TMT will consist of a mirror 30 m in diameter, giving it eight times the collecting area of any current telescope. But unlike conventional telescopes, the size of the mirror means that it will have to be split up into 492 individual hexagonal segments, all packed together into a curved honeycomb arrangement.
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