Posted 3:35 PM 10/24/2012 : RAW VIDEO: UA scientists finish polishing giant telescope mirror
TUCSON - The Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory, located under the University of Arizona football stadium, has completed the most challenging large astronomical mirror ever made, officials say.
For the past several years, a group of optical scientists and engineers have been precisely polishing the unusually-shaped, 27.5-foot diameter mirror, which will form the heart of the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope, according to news release from the UA. The mirror is the first of seven that will be installed in the telescope, which will be located on a remote mountaintop in the Chilean Andes.
"Making this first GMT mirror required all the expertise and experience that the University has built up over 25 years of making telescope mirrors and a great deal of innovation to push beyond previous limits in optical fabrication and testing," said Buell Jannuzi, director of the UA Steward Observatory and professor of astronomy. "In achieving this remarkable milestone, the team built and demonstrated all the equipment and techniques that will lead to efficient production of the remaining mirrors for the GMT."
The mirror was cast from 20 tons of glass, which was melted in a rotating furnace into it flowed into a honeycomb mold. Once the glass was cooled, scientists at the lab used a series of fine abrasives to polish the mirror, checking regularly using precision optical tests.
"By the standards used by optical scientists, the ‘degree of difficulty' for this mirror is 10 times that of any previous large telescope mirror," the UA release states. "The mirror surface matches the desired prescription to a precision of 19 nanometers - so smooth that if it were the size of the continental U.S., the highest mountains would be little more than a half-inch high."
For more on the new mirror, the Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory, and the Giant Magellen Telescope, read the UA News release here:
All images and video courtesy Ray Bertram, Steward Observatory
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