For the last five years, Harris employees in the Rochester area have been working on a special mirror that will become part of a telescope located at an observatory in South America.
Harris was part of a National Science Foundation team, and its duties were to create what is the largest mirror that Harris’s Space and Intelligence Systems division have ever produced. Harris manufactured the secondary mirror for that telescope, a 12-foot mirror that weighs 3,500 pounds.
Laura Abplanalp is Director of Civil and Commercial Imaging at Harris, and she says the mirror that her company produced will be part of a telescope that also has a 27-foot wide primary mirror.
“It’s a very large ground-based telescope; Harris also provides telescopes that go into space, but they can’t have nearly the size of the mirror that this one has. And this one is so large, it’s going to allow us to see billions of new objects and really will transform our understanding of dark energy and dark matter,” Abplanalp told WXXI news.
The mirror and related equipment were taken by tractor-trailers to Albany, put on a ship and now are going through the Panama Canal.
The gear should arrive in Chile early in December. The telescope should be operational sometime in 2022, and when that happens, the general public will also be able to access its data online.
Abplanalp says projects like this really help motivate current employees as well as help attract new hires.
“Having involvement in projects like this…we’re looking forward to being able to attract new talent, and continue in this legacy that we’ve been basically participating in for over 50 years of designing and building high end optical systems that meet very challenging requirements for a number of customers,” Ablanalp said.
Glass for the telescope mirror was made by Corning, Inc.