Next-gen telescope to open new gateways for exploration
With a 30-meter diameter, Petro Voulgaris’ next-generation telescope will be made for serious stargazing.
Voulgaris, a CSL researcher and professor of aerospace engineering, received a three-year, $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to design an ATLAS telescope that will revolutionize astronomy. Voulgaris will lead Leland Holloway, a professor emeritus of physics, and Laird Thompson, a professor of astronomy, in engineering a multi-segmented telescope.
Instead of one giant mirror, this high performance telescope will have hundreds of mirrors built in the shape of the primary mirror.
Smaller mirrors are easier and cheaper to manufacture than large mirrors. The team is hoping that the multi-segmented telescope will create a new generation of large, more cost-effective telescopes.
Voulgaris is researching how to control the smaller mirrors to make sure they remain in focus when there is a disturbance in the atmosphere, such as wind or turbulence.
“That’s really the issue,” Voulgaris said. “How do you control the mirrors in an efficient way to maintain the desired shape of the whole mirror?”
The research will be more of an application of distributed control, Voulgaris said. His team wants to be able to control the system so that if one mirror becomes out of place, the optical performance could still remain high quality.
“We want to open the ways for an alternate design of large telescopes that have great potential to make good images from the sky,” Thompson said.
These types of telescopes are used for deep exploration, which is why they are so big. The telescopes could also be used from Antarctica or the moon.
Voulgaris has been looking into the multi-segmented telescope for over four years now, and plans to take his research to new levels with this grant.
He hopes to hire a post-doc student and a couple of graduate students. The research will mostly be conceptual, though the team may build small models of the multi-segmented telescope. The team will use their website to post the results of the research and collaborate with researchers in other labs.
“The ultimate goal is to prove the concept, and to have enough experience to move on to eventually building this type of telescope,” Voulgaris said.