AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 48 Visible-Light Telescopes, Instruments, and Technology
Poster, Tuesday, January 11, 2005, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

Previous   |   Session 48   |   Next

[48.04] Vacuum-Flex Figuring of Primary Telescope Mirrors

E. F. M. Albin (Fernbank Science Center)

In the current investigation, details on the construction and performance of a vacuum-flexed (i.e., figured) 51 cm (20-inch) mirror, with a fast f/4 focal ratio, are presented. A vacuum has the chief advantage of being able to pull with a uniform or isotropic stress across a large surface area, which will naturally form a parabolic surface. The essence of the idea is to grind and polish a spherical mirror and then warp or flex it into a near perfect paraboloid, thus avoiding tedious figuring altogether. To date, telescope makers around the globe have experimented with small flexed mirrors with considerable success. In these instances, mirrors have been flexed by exerting tension on a bolt or sponge-pad adhered to the back of the mirror.

The prototype mirror consists of two 51 cm disks of plate glass -- each slumped to an f/4 focal ratio. The front-plate (19 mm in thickness) is separated from the back-plate (13 mm in thickness) back a flexible 9.5 mm air filled gasket. Although the rubber gasket makes a fairly good vacuum seal, silicon cement was placed about the outer edge in order to produce a perfectly tight seal. A vacuum of 8 kPa on the back of the mirror resulted in approximately 164 kilograms of negative pressure, which is required to flex the mirror into the required paraboloid. Ronchi test show a nice smooth paraboloid free from astigmatism while foucault zonal measurements display a figure better than 1/20 wave. Preliminary star testing show promising results as well. Vacuum-flexed mirrors may have benefits for both amateur and professional telescope makers alike. A US patent is pending on the aforementioned design.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: ed.albin@fernbank.edu

Previous   |   Session 48   |   Next

Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 5
© 2004. The American Astronomical Society.