Schott Protects From Killer Asteroids

Schott was contracted with supplying mirror substrate made of “Zerodur” for an early warning system that consists of multiple wide angle telescopes is being established on the island of Hawaii.

How high is the risk that the earth will ever be hit by an asteroid that causes significant damage? This is a question that is being asked not only by Hollywood film-makers, but also serious astronomers. A specialized asteroid observatory that will be called “PanStarrs” (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) is currently being established as part of the Astronomical Institute of the University of Hawaii. It is designed to be able to detect and measure as many of the celestial bodies contained in our solar system as possible that have a diameter of 300 meters or more. An asteroid of this size could cause a natural catastrophe, should it ever hit the surface of the earth.

globale K PanStarrs will consist of four wide angle telescopes that are linked together to observe the same region of the sky simultaneously. This is important because it eliminates imaging errors from occurring and reduces uncertainties. Asteroids are moving objects that do not emit any light and are therefore very difficult to find. Only after they can be viewed using more than one telescope, can one be sure of their existence. At PanStarrs, each of the wide angle telescopes has a viewing field of 3 x 3 degrees (Tby comparison, a full moon exhibits expansion of approximately one half of a degree) and is driven by a CCD camera with one billion pixels. With exposure times of between 30 and 60 seconds per photo, the entire sky that can be viewed from Hawaii can be scanned several times per month. Astronomers are looking to use this image data to detect asteroids and comets, calculate their flight paths and assess how dangerous they could become. Panstarrs is said to be able to reliably predict the position they’ll be in 50 years in advance and, therefore, represents a reliable early warning system.

A perfect copy of the telescope that will be used in PanStarrs will become available as a prototype by 2006es der vier PanStarrs-e. It will be used to test both the technology and how images are to be evaluated. Schott AG has been contracted to construct a mounted system for the mirror that will be used in the prototype, using its glass ceramic product “Zerodur”. It will have a diameter of 1.84 meters and contain a hole in the middle that is 0.9 meters 90 cm wide. This unconventional telescopic mirror will allow for an extremely compact optical design. The light that enters will be reflected several times and then be guided through the ist für einen nichts ungewöhnliches, sondernmiddle hole until it reaches the CCD camera. The mirror holder is currently being manufactured by Schott in Mainz and delivery is expected to take place this April.

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