National Science Board Favors Funding 'Extremely Large Telescope' With $1.6 Billion Over Other Telescopes

By Thea Felicity

Mar 08, 2024 12:54 PM EST

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14: Tropospheric Composition Program Manager of NASA Barry Lefer speaks during a news briefing on NASA’s TEMPO instrument at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on March 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. The NASA and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory hold a briefing on NASA's TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution) instrument, "the first space-based instrument to observe major air pollutants across North America every hour during the daytime."
(Photo : Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The National Science Board has proposed allocating $1.6 billion to an "extremely large telescope," marking a big step for American astronomy. This comes as they weigh two competing proposals that promise to advance observational astronomy. 

Meanwhile, US astronomers welcome the opportunity for improved capabilities, deciding between the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope.

As the proposed budget awaits confirmation, the decision regarding which telescope to fund has implications, as the outcome will heavily influence the direction of scientific exploration. Given the groundbreaking capabilities of each telescope, choosing one represents a pivotal moment in determining the course of future astronomical research.

However, according to NY Times, the real challenge lies in balancing the various needs and preferences within the astronomical community while matching them with the resources at hand. Allocating significant funding to one telescope requires making difficult choices and finding a middle ground, pinpointing the conflict between ambitious goals and practical considerations. 

While there is a strong desire for extensive scientific exploration, the limitations of budget constraints and other projects competing for funding impose constraints on what can be achieved.

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What US Astronomers Say About The Pending Budget

US astronomers and key stakeholders stress the importance of careful planning and consideration during this critical moment. The decisions will significantly impact American astronomy's direction, affecting its global standing and ability to make major space discoveries.

Amidst the ongoing discussions, members of the astronomical community emphasize the necessity of unity and cooperation once the funding is secured. No matter what happens, the effort to build the "extremely large telescope" shows how much people want to learn more about space and keep exploring.

In the next few months, the National Science Foundation will be waiting on the government's decision on the $1.6 billion fund allocation. Unfortunately, there's not much to know about the telescope yet, but it's expected to be groundbreaking in terms of what it could scan and find in space.

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