Giant telescope project gearing up for blast-off


Staff reporter (Leader Live)

THE world’s largest telescope – partly created by Glyndwr University – will be a step closer to completion today.

The peak of a 3,000 metre mountain in the Chilean Andes will be blasted-off to create a plateau needed for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which will be the largest telescope of its kind to be built anywhere in the world.

The pioneering £900 million star-gazer will have a link to North East Wales, with Glyndwr University’s pioneering technology centre involved in producing its mirrors.

It is due to be completed in 2022. Once ready, it will be able to take direct images of planets orbiting distant stars.

Astronomers also hope it will be able to give an insight into the first galaxies to form after the Big Bang.

Between 4.30pm and 6.30pm today the peak of Cerro Armazones in Northern Chile will be reduced by 40 metres to create a level surface.

Nearly one million tonnes of rock need to be blown off to leave a base large enough for the telescope.

Glyndwr’s OpTIC technology centre in St Asaph has been delivering prototypes for the telescope’s primary mirror system, which will consist of 798 hexagonal mirrors each 1.4 metres wide.

The summit of Cerro Armazones is part of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). This has required the development of new mechanical polishing methods at a scale of ten thousand times thinner than a human hair, which alone represents a significant boost in large optics manufacturing capability to the UK.

ESO project manager, Tony Fox-Leonard, said: “The levelling of the mountain top is very exciting and provides confidence to those on the periphery that this ground-breaking venture is going ahead.

“It is coincidental that this week we completed yet another segment to meet the demanding requirements of the optics for the E-ELT.

“The project here at St Asaph continues to be a true team effort overcoming some difficult metrology and analysis, process and tool optimisation.”

See full story in the Leader

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