Casting a $20 Million Mirror for the World’s Largest Telescope

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Building a mirror for any giant telescope is no simple feat. The sheer size of the glass, the nanometer precision of its curves, its carefully calculated optics, and the adaptive software required to run it make this a task of herculean proportions.

image/text credit: IEEE Spectrum

But the recent castings of the 15-metric ton, off-axis mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope forced engineers to push the design and manufacturing process beyond all previous limits.

The Giant Magellan Telescope will be one member of the next class of giant ground-based telescopes that promises to revolutionize our view and understanding of the universe. he GMT has a unique design that offers several advantages.

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It is a segmented mirror telescope that employs seven of today’s largest stiff monolith mirrors as segments. Six off-axis 8.4 meter or 27-foot segments surround a central on-axis segment, forming a single optical surface 24.5 meters, or 80 feet, in diameter with a total collecting area of 368 square meters. The GMT will have a resolving power 10 times greater than the Hubble Space Telescope.

VIAIEEE Spectrum
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