Update on the Next-Generation Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Proposal

by Patrick Cote (NRC/HIA)

The Next Generation CFHT (ngCFHT) is a proposal, introduced in 2010, to expand the CFHT partnership and transform the existing 3.6m telescope into a dedicated, wide-field, 10m spectroscopic telescope, with the goal of achieving first light in the early 2020s. Between January 2011 and November 2012, a feasibility study of the proposal was carried out in order to: (1) examine carefully the facility's science drivers and performance requirements; (2) understand its overall state of technical readiness; and (3) lay the foundation for a partnership that could ultimately deliver this facility to the international astronomical community.

Because the proposed facility would have a broad multi-national appeal -- and because the proposed redevelopment is beyond the scope of the existing CFHT partners -- a number of science working groups (SWGs) were assembled in 2011, with membership not limited to existing partner communities. The SWGs were chosen to cover a broad range of science topics: the interstellar medium, stellar astrophysics and exoplanets, the Milky Way, the Local Group, nearby galaxies and clusters, galaxy evolution, QSOs and AGN, the intergalactic medium, and cosmology. The ∼60 astronomers who make up the SWGs represent a number of communities that have a presence on Mauna Kea, either now or in the near future (e.g., Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Hawaii, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, the UK, and the USA). Sixteen Canadian astronomers (from seven universities, as well as NRC/HIA) participated in the scientific component of the feasibility study, with five of the ten SWGs being led by Canadian astronomers. Two additional Canadian universities participated in the technical component of the feasibility study, which was carried out by NRC/HIA.

The final reports of the feasibility study were submitted to the CFHT Science Advisory Committee and CFHT Board of Directors in November 2012. The feasibility reports are available at:


As noted in Section 1 of the science report, the proposed facility would be unrivaled in its ability to perform panoramic, multi-object spectroscopy of the faint universe thanks to its combination of large collecting area, wide-field of view, high multiplexing, range of spectral resolutions (R = 2000, 6500, 20000), and dedicated operational mode. The technical study has shown that the proposed facility is technically feasible, and of relatively low risk. First light could be as early as 2021-2022, subject to the date of partnership formation and construction start date. The total cost of the facility is estimated to be $206M, or roughly $35M per partner if base-lined to a partnership of six equal members. Operating costs would be $1.8M per year per partner, or roughly 60% of the current operating costs for current major CFHT partners.

A "Next Generation CFHT workshop" will be held at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai’i, Hilo, Hawaii on 27–29 March 2013.


This workshop will be a forum for discussion of the science cases and technical status of the ngCFHT concept. It will provide an opportunity to: (1) define a path forward for the scientific and technical development of the project; and (2) begin laying the foundation for a partnership that could deliver this unique facility to the international astronomical community.