Secrets of the Universe

March 2019

A medium-sized company in eastern Germany has developed a process that could help researchers unlock more secrets of the universe.

Chemnitz-based scia Systems, which actually specializes in producing process systems for the microelectronics, MEMS and precision optics branch, has developed an extremely accurate technique for processing mirrors with a focused beam of charged particles (i.e., ions).

It is supplying the innovative processing equipment to a project of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is building a huge telescope in the Chilean desert.

In fact, the aptly named Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which is scheduled for completion in 2024, will be almost four times the size of the largest existing telescope. Since it is impossible to produce its 39-meter-diameter mirror in one piece, it will be made up of 798 hexagonal partial mirrors that will look somewhat like a honeycomb once combined. And the processing equipment provided by scia Systems will etch away any unevenness between the partial mirrors to let it reproduce images of the heavens as clearly as possible.

This artist’s impression shows the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in its enclosure. The E-ELT will be a 39-metre aperture optical and infrared telescope sited on Cerro Armazones in the Chilean Atacama Desert, 20 kilometres from ESO’s Very Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal, which is visible in the distance towards the left. The design for the E-ELT shown here is preliminary. © ESO/L. Calçada