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Ultra Precision Mirrors at the Large Scale

Glyndŵr University helping to build the world’s largest telescope to uncover the mysteries of space

A €5M project underway at Glyndŵr University will support the most ambitious telescope project ever, help to detect earth-like planets around other stars, and develop our understanding of the large-scale structure and evolution of the universe.

Researchers are having to develop new manufacturing techniques in order to build a 39-metre mirror which will fit onto the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), a new observatory being built by the European Southern Observatory to enable scientists to address fundamental questions beyond the reach of current equipment used in space-astronomy and related fields.  The E-ELT will be sited in Chile, and will gather light from distant stars and galaxies 15 times more quickly than the largest telescopes around today.  Work has already begun to blast away part of the 3,000m mountain peak to make way for the new observatory, due to be completed in 2022.

In order to overcome the challenge of manufacture and transportation, the mirror will be ‘tiled’ with 798 hexagonal segments, each 1.45 metres across. The Glyndŵr University team is manufacturing five full-size prototype segments and is experimenting with state-of-the-art high precision surface removal processes, critical to the success of the telescope’s performance.

“If you can control edges when polishing segments, you are the only people in the world who can do so.” Senior representative from the European Southern Observatory

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