The latest optical products for astronomy in 2023
Optics are used for the design, construction, and use of telescopes and other optical instruments for studying stars, planets, galaxies, and other astronomical phenomena.
The reason optics play such a crucial role in astronomy is because they allow astronomers to collect and analyse light from distant objects in the universe. Optical telescopes use lenses and mirrors to focus and gather light, enabling astronomers to study objects that are too far away – or too faint – to be seen with the human eye alone.
As well as telescopes other space-qualified optical instruments used in astronomy include spectrographs, which break down light into its component wavelengths, and photometers, which measure the brightness of celestial objects.
Optical instruments for astronomy use a variety of optical components to collect, focus, and magnify light from celestial objects. The primary optical component of a telescope is either an objective lens or a primary mirror, which collects and focuses light onto the secondary mirror or directly onto the focal plane. The secondary mirror reflects the light from the primary mirror to the focal plane or to an eyepiece, which is a lens or set of lenses that magnifies the image formed by the primary optical component and allows the observer to see the image.
A Barlow lens is a type of lens that increases the effective focal length of the primary optical component, thereby increasing magnification, while a diagonal mirror is a flat mirror that reflects light at a 90-degree angle, allowing the observer to view objects in a more comfortable position. Optical filters are used to selectively block or transmit certain wavelengths of light, allowing astronomers to study specific features or characteristics of celestial objects. Corrector plates are used to correct for spherical aberration and other optical distortions that can occur in refracting telescopes.
Optical products for astronomy on the market now
Vendors of optical components and equipment for astronomy include Alluxa, which offers ultra-narrow optical filters for a number of markets including astronomy. Most recently the company developed two Hydrogen Alpha (H-alpha) emission line filters specifically for astronomy.
Astro Hutech provides astronomical equipment and accessories for visual astronomy and astrophotography. Products include filters for astrophotography under the IDAS brand, including narrowband filters and light pollution filters, as well as eyepieces, mounts and imaging accessories.
Astronomik is a manufacturer of astronomical filters. The company’s range includes narrowband filters for astrophotography, light pollution filters, and UV/IR cut filters.
Baader Planetarium produces a wide range of filters for telescopes, including narrowband filters, broadband filters, and speciality filters such as solar filters.
CeNing Optics provides optical filters including coloured glass, narrowband interference and bandpass for astronomy.
Edmund Optics is a well-known supplier of optical components, including optical lenses and mirrors for telescopes. The company offers a wide range of mirrors, including concave, convex, and flat mirrors, as well as specialised mirrors for specific applications. Lenses include achromatic, aspherical lenses, cylindrical lenses, and more.
Laser Components offers different optical filter designs, including beam splitters and bandpass, band-stop, short-pass and long-pass filters, with wavelength ranges from the UV to the FIR. It can custom-make astronomical filters to provide high imaging quality using space-qualified materials. A range of off-the shelf products is also available, including bessell photometric variations and SDSS photometric sets.
Materion offers bespoke filter designs for applications such as space, science and astronomy. The company has expertise in designing and manufacturing precision thin film coatings and optical filters for use in these applications. Its products have been used in projects such as the Genesis mission, the Juno mission to Jupiter and the Mars Science Lab mission.
Moeller-Wedel Optical produces stock and custom optical test equipment, testing telescopes, dioptre telescopes, alignment telescopes and alignment collimators. The company offers mirrors and polygon mirrors for measurements of straightness, flatness, squareness, parallelism and furthermore wobble, as well as position uncertainty of index tables or round tables.
Newport Corporation produces high-quality optical mirrors for use in telescopes, including aluminium and silver coated mirrors, dielectric mirrors, and first surface mirrors. A wide range of optical lenses for telescopes is also available including achromatic and aspherical lenses, cylindrical lenses, and custom lenses.
Omega Optical is a manufacturer of optical filters for various applications, including astronomy. It offers a range of filters, including narrowband and broadband filters, and also provides custom filter design services.
Optical Surfaces manufactures high-quality mirrors for telescopes using advanced polishing techniques. A wide range of mirror sizes, coatings, and surface accuracy specifications are available.
Schott is a provider of optical materials, including glass lenses for telescopes. A wide range of lenses is available with a range of coatings and specifications. With 120 optical glass types available, the firm’s mirror substrates and instrument optics have been used in astronomical work such as the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) project in Chile.
Space Optics Research Labs (SORL) makes aspheric optical systems and instrumentation for a wide range of research and test applications, including airborne, space-based, and astronomical use cases. Flat, spherical, and aspheric mirrors in ceramic, glass and metal precision mirror mounts are available. So are reflective beam expanders, collimators, FLIR test stations, lidar telescopes, Fourier transform systems, IR lens assemblies and a LUPI-IIA interferometer.
Spectrum Scientific (SSI) designs and manufactures specialist custom-designed optics, including the supply of ultra-low stray light, high efficiency gratings for high profile space projects, such as the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS). The company can also replicate low CTE materials for off-axis-parabolic, ellipsoidal and freeform mirrors for space borne telescopes and space optical interconnect systems.
Thorlabs is a manufacturer of scientific instruments, including a range of optical mirrors for use in telescopes. The company offers various coatings, sizes, and shapes of mirrors, including dielectric, aluminium, and gold coated. It also offers lenses made from various materials such as glass, sapphire, and silicon; as well as lenses with different shapes and sizes.
Zambuto Optical Company specialises in the production of high-end custom mirrors for use in telescopes. Mirrors are made from low-expansion glass and the company also produces precision parabolic mirrors with high surface accuracy and smoothness.
Zeiss is a well-known manufacturer of optical lenses for telescopes. It offers a wide range of lenses, including achromatic lenses, aspherical lenses, and custom lenses.
This is not an exhaustive list. If you provide optical components for astronomy and would like your company to be included, please let us know at: email@example.com
Spectrum Scientific: Featured optical astronomy product
Optical replication allows the creation of high-specification mirrors and gratings for space and astronomy applications.
SSI has supplied a number of ultra-low stray light gratings for a number of high-profile projects, including the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS), where we achieved an absolute diffraction efficiency of 74% at 250nm – which is within a few percent of the theoretical maximum – and exceptional stray light performance with energy levels reducing to less than 1x10E-6 a few nanometres away from the first order and below 1x10E-8 between orders.
SSI has also manufactured fast-focusing concave mirrors for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which required high-performance UV mirrors on aluminium substrates. For this application the company achieved a surface figure of less than λ/80 RMS at 632.8nm and surface roughness on the order of 7Å. The final overcoat was aluminium with reflectivity at 200nm exceeding 90%. For more information about SSI’s ultra-low stray light gratings for astronomy applications, visit the company website.
Knight Optical: Featured optical astronomy product
Knight Optical, a global supplier of precision optics, can provide optical components used in astronomy applications. We have worked closely with customers on prototype orders to large-scale projects ensuring they receive precision optics ready to be integrated into their optical system. Knight Optical’s capabilities allow us to provide small to large diameter optics working in UV, visible, and IR wavelengths, with materials ranging from N-BK7, fused silica (UV and IR grades), and crystalline materials such as calcium fluoride, zinc selenide/sulphide, and germanium. The company’s mirror and antireflective (AR) coatings can be optimised for the design wavelength of the system.
Knight Optical’s typical optical components include:
We pride ourselves on the quality of the optical components we provide our customers, and guarantee this by testing them within our metrology laboratory and visually inspecting them in the QA department prior to shipment.