June 29, 2005T
he next generation of ground-based telescopes took one step closer to reality this week. Casting the first of seven 27-foot (8.4 meter) mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope
(GMT) remains on schedule after scientists at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab (SOML) successfully prefired the huge spinning furnace.
The 2-week prefiring process began June 16. Mirror Lab technicians monitored the furnace temperature and turned up the heat for the first 8 days of the test run. The process centers core glue joints, burns out any impurities, and stresses the mirror's mold.
The team will lift the furnace's lid off tomorrow to take a look at the mold, but detailed inspection will take place after the Fourth of July holiday.