Liquid Mirror Telescope, Thanks to Rotating Film of Mercury #telescope #astronomy

How’s that work? Schematic representation of the forces acting on an object situated on a sloping surface. The red arrow represents the force of gravity. The green arrow represents the normal force. Since those two forces are not aligned in this situation, they do not entirely cancel each other. The resultant force is directed down the slope. In this image the shape is a cross section of a parabolic dish. When the dish is rotating then there is one rotation rate that exactly matches the parabolic shape. If the rotation rate matches the shape, then an object that is co-rotating with the disk will neither climb up the slope, nor slide down the slope.

If you’ve been a Do-It-Yourself sort of nerd, you may have ground down and polished a telescope mirror. Polished… and polished… and polished. But getting it perfect is necessary, even more so for professional astronomers. So this piece about a liquid mirror caught my eye:

The International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT) in the central Himalayas… houses a four-meter rotating mirror coated with a thin film of liquid mercury. Rotating once every eight seconds, the mirror floats on a film of compressed air about 10 microns thick… Liquid-mirror telescopes take advantage of the fact that the surface of a rotating liquid naturally takes on a parabolic shape, which is ideal for focusing light.

Good luck guys studying your transient or variable objects such as supernovae, gravitational lenses, space debris and asteroids.

Wow, what a concept. Of course, there’s lots of fancy optics too with just as much of a wow-factor. And lots of organizations are involved:

The ILMT collaboration includes researchers at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, and the Indian Space Research Organization, the University of Liège and the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Belgium, Poznan Observatory in Poland, the Ulugh Beg Astronomical Institute of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences and National University of Uzbekistan in Uzbekistan, the University of British Columbia, Laval University, the University of Montreal, the University of Toronto, York University and the University of Victoria in Canada.

The telescope was designed and built by the Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems and the Centre Spatial de Liège in Belgium.

That’s what I call an international effort.

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