October 09, 2008

Future Giant Telescope News Roundup

1. A team of internationally renowned astronomers and opticians may have found a way to make "unbelievably large" telescopes on the Moon.

- they are synthesizing ionic liquids that remain molten even at liquid-nitrogen temperatures.
- all the materials for an entire lunar telescope 20 meters across would be "only a few tons, which could be boosted to the Moon in a single Ares 5 mission in the 2020s
- Future telescopes might have mirrors as large as 100 meters in diameter—larger than a football field.
- a spinning mirror of an ionic liquid can be coated with an ultrathin (50-100 nanometer) layer of silver just as if it were a solid mirror
- Locating a major liquid-mirror telescope near the lunar poles would be able to scan a good section of the sky
- Optical designers are now experimenting with ways of electromechanically warping secondary mirrors suspended above a liquid mirror—or even slightly warping the liquid mirror itself—to aim at angles away from the vertical. Similar techniques are used to point the great Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.

2. The Thirty Meter Telescope appears to have found that donor, in Intel's Gordon Moore. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation pledged $200 million for the construction of the telescope late last year.

The Giant Magellan Telescope at 24.5 meters, the Thirty Meter Telescope, and the 42-meter European Extremely Large Telescope are expected to be completed within a decade. In the glacial world of large 'scope building, this is just around the corner.

Project E-ELT has the aim of observing the Universe in greater detail than even the Hubble Space Telescope. A mirror of approximately 42 meters would allow the study of the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. The 5-mirror anastigmat design is estimated to cost €800 million and could be completed by 2017.

The large earth based telescopes and the ionic liquid telescope look like there is some momentum to actually having them built. The next two are currently just ideas (although they are good ideas).

3. This site previously covered a magnetic flux telescope design which could make space based telescopes that are over 200 meters in size.

4. There was also the plan for a 50 meter or larger telescope made on the moon using new lunar concrete.

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