Glyndŵr scientists latest success with £900m telescope project

Scientists have gone even further and faster in breaking new boundaries for the world’s largest telescope.

The team at Glyndŵr University’s Optic Centre in St Asaph has produced the third mirror segment for the £900million European-Extremely Large Telescope project, just a few months after completing the second prototype.

The news is a major boost to the University’s National Facility for Ultra Precision Surfaces, which has again met the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) exacting requirements.

Speaking about this latest success, Project manager Caroline Gray said: “This is another major success for the ESO project team and for the University, further securing our reputation as a world class optical manufacturing group.”

Explaining the process, she added: “ESO has defined a delivery process that is split into two phases. The segments produced to date are against phase two which is the final specification on a hexagonal shape, and phase one which is a different specification again – we are confident our process can deliver within the time frames expected.

“The three segments we’ve done have all been accepted against phase two, which is a remarkable achievement.

“The next segment will be made against phase one and will be a round piece of glass, so we are challenged with showing that our process can deliver to this interim stage within the extremely demanding time frames.”

Due for completion in 2024, the giant eye on the sky will be sited in Chile and was given the green light in November.

Last year, the group received global acclaim for polishing the 1.5 metre optic down to just 7.5 nanometres – which equates to around the size of a haemoglobin module – using the test facility designed and built by Glyndŵr University. This remains the only full aperture test facility certified compliant by ESO.

That was the best measurement ever managed in the UK, and the first time such a feat has ever been achieved using computer-operated machinery, coupled with the university’s unique polishing process and metrology system.

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