The production of metal mirrors for use in astronomy
This thesis demonstrates the possibility of manufacturing larger mirrors from nickel coated aluminium with a considerable cost and risk benefits compared to zero expansion glass ceramic or borosilicate. Constructing large mirrors from aluminium could cut the cost of production by one third. A new generation of very large telescopes is being designed, on the order of 100 meters diameter. The proposed designs are of mosaic type mirrors similar to the Keck Telescope primary. The enormous mass of glass required inhibits the construction, simply by its cost and production time. Very little research has been done on the processes involved in the production of large metal mirrors. However the thermal efficiency and potential improved mirror seeing benefits are documented. Space telescopes and optical telecommunications could also benefit with the application of metal mirrors. Presented here are the processes and results that culminated in the rebirth of the Birr Telescope. The main section concerns the material selection and processes in the construction of a 1.83 meter diameter 1.4 tonne aluminium primary mirror. The aluminium mirror technology developed was also applied to the construction of an aspheric thin meniscus deformable mirror. Methods employed in its production are described. Documented are the advanced computer controlled polishing methods employed in producing a one third scale model of the hyperbolic secondary mirror for the Gemini Telescopes. These were developed using an active polishing lap.