US TMT Liaison

Announcing the U.S. Extremely Large Telescope Program

NOAO, the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO), and the TMT International Observatory (TIO) have embarked on the development of a joint U.S. Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) Program, which is advocating strong U.S. national participation and federal investment in both giant O/IR observatories.

Going forward, NOAO's US TMT Liaison activities, which have continued since 2013 as part of a cooperative agreement between TMT and the National Science Foundation, will largely be redirected toward this new US ELT Program initiative.  This web page documents NOAO's TMT Liaison activities from 2013 to 2018.  It is no longer being updated, and therefore some information is out of date.

TMT Background Information & FAQ

[Note: This FAQ was written in 2014 and some portions are now out of date.]

In March 2013, the NSF/AST and the Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory Corporation signed a cooperative agreement initiating a 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 (AURA co-chair) NOAO
Ian Dell'Antonio Brown University
Karen Meech University of Hawaii







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 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Deborah Padgett NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Catherine Pilachowski Indiana University
Kartik Sheth NASA Headquarters
Lisa Storrie-Lombardi Infrared Processing and Analysis Center


Community Opportunities

The TMT Science Forum

2018 TMT Science Forum: 10-12 December 2018, Pasadena, CA

"Breakthrough Science with the Thirty Meter Telescope"

The 2018 Forum focused on the future of TMT science programs large and small, with an eye toward the upcoming 2020 US Decadal Survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics.  The meeting also featured a visit to the TMT technical laboratory in Monrovia.

2017 TMT Science Forum: 7-9 November 2017, Mysore, India

"TMT: Beyond First Light"

The 2017 Forum focused on planning for future-generation instrumentation and AO systems for TMT.  Plenary and breakout sessions discussed ideas for future TMT capabilities, and on responses to a call for instrumentation white papers issued by the TMT SAC.

2016 TMT Science Forum:  25-26 May 2016, Kyoto, Japan

"International Partnership for Global Astronomy"

The 2016 Forum was the first to be held in Asia, and focused on the theme of international collaboration. TMT will be built and operated internationally, and this Forum was a venue for members of the international TMT community to map out cooperative strategies for developing the observatory and its instrumentation, running the facility, and carrying out science with global reach.  Sessions and talks emphasized:

  • International TMT Key Project science
  • Cross-partnership collaboration and the International Science Development Teams (ISDTs)
  • Second-generation TMT instrumentation and AO development
  • Effective strategies for observatory operations
  • Coordinating science planning with other observatories and facilities within the TMT partnership

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

"Maximizing Transformative Science with TMT"

The 2015 Forum focused on ways 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.

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

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

The 2014 Forum 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, usually due in January.    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 nine 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
  • Stars, stellar physics and the interstellar medium
  • 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:
    • April 2018:  Planning Future Capabilities for the Thirty Meter Telescope
    • October 2017:  Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) News
    • March 2017: An Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope Site
    • September 2016:  The 2016 TMT Science Forum in Kyoto;  TMT site update
    • March 2016:  TMT: Progress, Challenges, and US National Participation; Upcoming TMT Science Forum
    • 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 September 17, 2019.