US TMT Liaison

TMT Background Information & FAQ

Latest News:

In March 2013, the NSF/AST and the Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory Corporation signed a cooperative agreement initiating a five-year program aimed at engaging the US astronomical community in the TMT Observatory project. AURA is an associate member of the TMT International Observatory (TIO), and NOAO is executing AURA's responsibilities and TMT particiation activities, representing the US astronomical community.

NOAO established a US TMT Liaison office ( to help coordinate and organize these activities, and a US TMT Science Working Group (SWG). This effort will lead to a set of reports, based on input solicited from the scientific community, that will constitute a plan for US participation in TMT. These reports will include:

  • US TMT Science Plan - the scientific justification for the TMT from the US community perspective;
  • Flowdown to Capabilities - the telescope, instrumentation, and AO capabilities needed to address the US community's aspirations;
  • Flowdown to Operations - how TMT would be best used to maximilly benefit the US community, including discussions of observing modes, time allocation, and data management;
  • Integrated Science and Education Plan - addressing broader impacts of workforce development, education, and public outreach.

AURA has non-voting representation on the TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Governors, as well as on the TMT Science Advisory Committee (SAC).

TIO Board of Governors
AURA/NOAO members


David Silva NOAO
Catherine Pilachowski Indiana University
Vernon Pankonin NSF (observer)
TIO Science Advisory Committee 
AURA/NOAO members


Mark Dickinson (SAC chair) NOAO
Ian Dell'Antonio Brown University
Jennifer Lotz STScI







The US TMT Science Working Group

The US TMT Science Working Group (SWG) was established following the cooperative agreement between the NSF and TMT.  The US TMT SWG relays US community consensus input to the TMT Project and the TMT Science Advisory Committee.  Over the five-year period of the NSF-TMT cooperative agreement, the US TMT SWG will produce reports on US community views to guide future NSF-TMT interactions.

Name Institution
US TMT Science Working Group Members
Ian Dell'Antonio Brown University
Mark Dickinson (chair) NOAO
Anthony Gonzalez University of Florida
Stephen Kane San Francisco State University
James Lloyd Cornell University
Jennifer Lotz STScI
Lucas Macri Texas A&M University
Karen Meech University of Hawaii / IfA
Susan Neff Goddard Space Flight Center
Deborah Padgett Goddard Space Flight Center
Caty Pilachowski Indiana University
Kartik Sheth NRAO
Lisa Storrie-Lombardi Infrared Processing and Analysis Center


Community Opportunities


2015 TMT Science Forum: 23-25 June 2015, Washington, D.C.

"Maximizing Transformative Science with TMT"

The 2015 TMT Science Forum was held in Washington, D.C. at the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel.   With 9 to 14 times more collecting area than today's 8- to 10m-class telescopes, and 12.5 times better angular resolution than the Hubble Space Telescope in the near-infrared, TMT will enable amazing new science. The 2015 Forum provided an opportunity to think ahead about how to maximize the scientific return from TMT through innovative collaborations, telescope operations, data management, and instrumentation development. The meeting featured presentations about the transformative science enabled by TMT, and on how best to accomplish that science. There were working sessions devoted to planning for possible "key programs" that could span the international TMT partnership as a means to carry out projects that might exceed the capacity of individual scientists and teams within any single partner. The implications of such programs for TMT operations, and the evolution of its instrumentation suite, were discussed.

NSF Travel Support:  As part of its cooperative agreement with TMT, the National Science Foundation provides generous funding for members of the US community to attend the TMT Science Forum.  This funding is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  For more information, write to

Previous meetings:

2014 TMT Science Forum:  17-19 July 2014, Tucson, AZ   

“TMT in the Astronomical Landscape of the 2020s”.

This meeting explored the synergy between TMT and other facilities in the post-2020 astronomical landscape, and featured an all-day TMT Instrumentation Workshop.

2013 TMT Science Forum:  22-23 July 2013, Waikoloa, HI

TMT International Science Development Teams

The TMT Observatory has established partnership-wide International Science Development Teams (ISDTs) to provide scientific input and feedback to the TMT project.  ISDT membership is open to all Ph.D. scientists anywhere, both from the current TMT partners and from the astronomical community at large.  

There are annual calls for new ISDT members.  The next opportunity for applications will be due on 15 January 2016.  For more information, see:

The goals and tasks of the ISDTs include:

  • Building connections between scientists within and beyond the international TMT partnership
  • Broadening the base of scientists actively engaged in TMT, including, e.g., observers, theorists, high-energy physicists
  • Demonstrating the full potential of TMT in key science areas cutting across instrumentation boundaries
  • Maintaining the TMT Detailed Science Case, a foundation document that serves as the scientific guideline for all aspects of TMT development
  • Increasing visibility of TMT science by producing white papers and organizing workshops

The initial set of ISDTs are organized around eight topics:

  • Fundamental physics and cosmology
  • Early universe, galaxy formation and the intergalactic medium
  • Supermassive black holes and active galactic nuclei
  • The Milky Way and nearby galaxies
  • Formation of stars and planets
  • Exoplanets
  • Our solar system
  • Time domain astronomy

TMT US Community Survey (survey now closed)

The US TMT Science Working Group would like your input on how you would use TMT for your scientific research, and on the instrumentation, operations, time allocation, and data management issues you view as most important to maximize the scientific return of TMT for the US astronomical community.

As part of this process, the SWG would like you to fill out a short TMT US community survey. Most of the survey consists of multiple choice questions, which should only take 10 to 15 minutes to answer. There are also some optional "essay questions" where you can provide additional information or opinions about various issues.  Filling out this survey will help inform the SWG's discussions and subsequent report to the NSF.

Information and articles from the NOAO TMT Liaison Office:

  • NOAO Newsletter TMT articles:
    • September 2015:  The 2015 TMT Science Forum;  The TMT Detailed Science Case, 2015 edition
    • March 2015:  Recent Developments with the Thirty Meter Telescope;  Upcoming 2015 TMT Science Forum
    • September 2014:  The 2014 TMT Science Forum in Tucson;  TMT Enters Its Construction Phase
    • March 2014:  The Thirty Meter Telescope and the US Astronomical Community;  Attend the Second TMT Science Forum

Last updated or reviewed February 8, 2016.