Japan is planning to request help from other countries to operate the Subaru Telescope, located near the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano, in order to increase available funding and widen the scope of research activities, officials said Thursday.
The optical-infrared telescope with a mirror measuring 8.2 meters in diameter was built by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan on the island of Hawaii in 1999.
It has been at the forefront of research into black holes and planets outside of the solar system but the operator has struggled to secure finances to pay for repairs amid budget cuts.
The NAOJ is considering asking the United States, Canada, China and India to jointly operate the telescope with Japan. Those five countries are already building another giant telescope near the summit of the more than 4,200-meter-high Mauna Kea that, when completed, will be 55 meters tall.
Named the Thirty Meter Telescope, a reference to the telescope’s diameter, the new observatory is expected to be completed around 2027 and the NAOJ may propose its operations combine with those of the Subaru Telescope.
Michitoshi Yoshida, head of the NAOJ’s Hawaii observatory, said the plan to call for international cooperation is “by no means a sign it is giving up” on the Subaru project for financial reasons.
“Japan will continue to lead the project and will provide over half of its funds” in the event that it is operated jointly, Yoshida said, while expressing hope a deal with the other countries can be reached in the coming years.
According to the NAOJ, the Subaru Telescope is useful for wide-field surveys and can work in conjunction with the Thirty Meter Telescope. The new telescope will be able to see deep into space with its prime mirror measuring 30 meters in diameter but will have a narrower field of view.