Among the claims made against the observatories this is probably another on the top three list… That TMT will be obsolete before it is complete, that the telescope is simply a waste of money.
This claim draws on the public perception that technology is advancing at a breakneck pace and that many devices we use in out daily lives are quickly obsolete in the face of new tech. What many people do not understand is that this does not apply to telescopes, or rather it does, but not in the way you might think.
The telescope itself is simply a light collector, a large mirror that collects the light from distant sources and focuses it for use by an instrument.
The basic optical design of one of the large telescopes atop Mauna Kea has not really changed that much since Laurent Cassegrain sketched it out in 1672. Sure the design has been refined, and made a bit bigger, but totally recognizable as the same in those original drawings from more than three centuries ago.
If the basic design of the telescope has served for centuries one can understand why it will not be obsolete in a few mere decades. The real technology in an observatory is found elsewhere.Continue reading “Will TMT be obsolete before completion?”