This shows the Giant Magellan Telescope, against the southern Milky Way, as it will appear when it’s completed.
Credit: Todd Mason/Mason Productions and GMTO Inc.

The first of seven mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope after removal from the furnace. The back surface of the mirror is shown here during an inspection of the holes used to ventilate the mirror during operation in the telescope.
Credit: Ray Bertram/University of Arizona

World’s most advanced mirror for giant telescope completed

October 23, 2012

Scientists at the University of Arizona and in California have completed the most challenging large astronomical mirror ever made.

For the past several years, a group of optical scientists and engineers working at the UA Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory underneath the UA’s football stadium have been polishing an 8.4-meter (27 ½ feet) diameter mirror with an unusual, highly asymmetric shape.

By the standards used by optical scientists, the “degree of difficulty” for this mirror is 10 times that of any previous large telescope mirror. The mirror surface matches the desired prescription to a precision of 19 nanometers – so smooth that if it were the size of the continental U.S., the highest mountains would be little more than a half-inch high.

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