Observatory picks Cilas to design and test its 42m wide mirror

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The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has recently entrusted Cilas with a design study and prototyping of the adaptive mirror for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The E-ELT, the next ESO large programme, will have a primary mirror diameter of 42 metres and is planned to be operational in 2018. It will be the world's largest installation of its kind.

Cilas won an international call for tenders issued by ESO in the frame of the E-ELT Phase B. The adaptive mirror, designed to correct in real time the turbulence of the terrestrial atmosphere, will have two major innovative characteristics: a diameter of 2.5 metres and between 5,000 and 10,000 piezoelectric actuators with large correction stroke.

Jacques Battistella, CILAS CEO, said: ‘Designing this mirror is a veritable technical challenge. It will play a key role in the performance of the telescope, enabling the ELT to reach a resolution 100 times better than the largest telescopes currently in use. This contract is also evidence of the trust that ESO has placed in us, trust that we are very proud to have gained and will do anything to maintain in the future, particularly with regard to this programme.’ Norbert Hubin, head of the Adaptive Optics Department at ESO, said: ‘We are pleased to pursue our past fruitful industrial partnership with Cilas for the design and prototyping of one of the most challenging component of the European ELT. Adaptive Optics is now considered as a crucial element of any future large telescopes. For that reason ESO has proposed designing an adaptive telescope which includes, from the start, a large deformable mirror in its optical train. It is essential for the E-ELT that industrial partners like CILAS bring their expertise to design and prototype such a complex and innovative component.’

Cilas has already delivered fourteen adaptive mirrors to ESO, the most recent being the Very Large Telescope SPHERE Deformable Mirror with 1,377 actuators. Cilas adaptive mirrors, optimised for high-resolution imaging and laser beams correction, are currently being used in Adaptive Optics systems at GEMINI and SUBARU Telescopes respectively in the United States and Japan.