Scientists at Glyndŵr University’s Optic Centre in Wales have produced the third mirror segment for the £900 million European-Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which, once completed, will be the largest optical/near-infrared telescope in the world.
Due for completion in 2024, the E-ELT, which was given the green light in November 2014, will be located in Chile. It will gather 13 times more light than the largest optical telescopes existing today, and will be able to correct for atmospheric distortions to provide images 16 times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The sucessful polishing of the third hexagonal mirror segment is a major boost to Glyndŵr University’s National Facility for Ultra Precision Surfaces, which has again met the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) stringent requirements. Glyndŵr remains the only full aperture test facility certified compliant by ESO.
Last year, the team polished the second 1.5 metre optic down to just 7.5 nanometres – around the size of a haemoglobin module – using the test facility designed and built by Glyndŵr University. It was the best measurement ever managed in the UK, and the first time such a feat has ever been achieved using computer-operated machinery, coupled with the university’s unique polishing process and metrology system.
‘This is another major success for the ESO project team and for the University, further securing our reputation as a world class optical manufacturing group,’ said project manager Caroline Gray.
The segments produced to date are against phase two, the final specification on a hexagonal shape, which is followed by phase one that has a different specification.
‘The three segments we’ve done have all been accepted against phase two, which is a remarkable achievement. The next segment will be made against phase one and will be a round piece of glass, so we are challenged with showing that our process can deliver to this interim stage within the extremely demanding time frames,’ Gray added.