Tucson Company, University Of Arizona Working On Giant Magellan Telescope

By Christina Estes
Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2019 - 12:54pm

Work from a lab at the University of Arizona will be reflected in the mirrors of the Giant Magellan Telescope — mirrors that are described as the world’s largest.

Inside the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at UA, workers build a mold that resembles a massive honeycomb. They load blocks of glass and crank up a furnace. After the glass melts, it takes three months to cool followed by three years of cleaning and polishing.

That’s the process involved just for one of seven segments that will make up the Giant Magellan Telescope’s primary mirror. Stretching more than 80 feet, the mirror will help scientists analyze distant stars and galaxies.

"It is incredible that we are now actually building the structure for one of mankind's signature scientific endeavors," Dennis Zaritsky, deputy director of Steward Observatory at UA said in a prepared statement. "I can't wait to see what we discover with this amazing machine."

According to a news release from UA, Tucson-based engineering firm M3 is designing the enclosure that will house the entire telescope. The telescope is designed to produce images that are 10 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope in the infrared region of the spectrum.

The ground-based structure is expected to be delivered to Las Campanas Observatory in Chile by the end of 2025 with the mirrors arriving in 2028.

On Oct. 30, 2019, GMTO Corporation announced a $135 million contract with MT Mechatronics of Mainz, Germany, and Rockford, Illinois-based Ingersoll Machine Tools, to design and manufacture a 1,800-ton precision mechanism, known as the "telescope structure" that will hold the telescope’s optics and track celestial targets. The structure will take nine years of work involving engineers, designers, metal workers and machinists. Funding comes from partner institutions, governments and private donors.

“Manufacturing the telescope structure is one of the biggest steps we will take on our journey to building the Giant Magellan Telescope,” Dr. Robert N. Shelton, GMTO president, said in a prepared statement.

GMTO Corporation manages the Giant Magellan Telescope project on behalf of international founders: Arizona State University, Astronomy Australia Ltd., the Australian National University, Carnegie Institution for Science, Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo, Harvard University, Korea Astronomy and Space Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Texas A&M University, UA, University of Chicago and the University of Texas at Austin.

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