Solar telescope mirror to be shaped by the University of Arizona

June 27, 2011
Tucson, AZ--The University of Arizona (UA) was awarded a multi-million dollar contract by AURA to polish the primary mirror for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope.

Tucson, AZ--The College of Optical Sciences at The University of Arizona (UA) was awarded a multi-million dollar contract by AURA, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (www.aura-astronomy.org), to polish the 4.2 m primary mirror blank being fabricated under contract with SCHOTT in Mainz, Germany for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), which will become the world's largest solar telescope when it becomes operational in Hawaii.

The large size and precision of the solar telescope's glass mirrorthe primary focusing element that will create high-resolution images of the fine-scale structure of the sunwill allow the telescope to provide data that helps scientists to address basic questions of solar magnetism and how its changing outputs affect the Earth. The mirror itself will be 4.2 m in diameter and only 3 inches thick at the thickest point, making it twice as flexible as a similarly sized mirror polished at UA for the Discovery Channel Telescope in Flagstaff, AZ.

The new telescope uses an off-axis design, which requires the finished surface of the primary mirror to be the shape of an off-axis paraboloid, which complicates the polishing process and measurement systems. In the case of the ATST mirror, the UA team will face an even more complex task polishing it in such a way that its surface assumes a so-called off-axis paraboloid. Conceptually, this shape can be thought of as a smaller mirror cut out from the edge of a larger, parent paraboloid mirror, except that the real mirror will not be cut out from a larger parent but made into this complex, asymmetric shape from the beginning.

The UA was selected by AURA for this work based on a competitive process. Nearly all of the funding will be spent in Arizona. This contract will enable the UA team to invest in project-related, state-of-the-art facilities at the College of Optical Sciences and will allow UA students to hone practical research and engineering skills while contributing to one of the nation's most prized scientific assets.

SOURCE: University of Arizona; http://uanews.org/node/40406

About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

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