Date: July 24, 2010

Title: A Gargantuan Infrared Telescope Project for Mexico


Podcaster: Edgardo Molina

Description: Today we are describing another interesting project being conducted by a
joint effort between the United States and Mexico, a huge infrared telescope.

Organization: Pleiades. Research and Astronomical Studies A.C. (web site soon to be presented also in English)

Bio: Edgardo Molina. B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Anahuac University in Mexico City. Post graduate studies in IT Engineering and a Masters Degree in IT Engineering. Working for IPTEL, an IT firm delivering solutions to enterprises since 1998. Space exploration enthusiast who participated in several Mexican space related activities. Licensed amateur radio operator with call sign XE1XUS. Amateur astronomer since childhood and actual founder and president of the Pleiades. Research and Astronomical Studies A.C. in Mexico City, Mexico. Avid visual observer and astrophotography fan. Public reach through education in exact sciences, engineering and astronomy. Lectures and teaching in several universities since 1993.

Today’s sponsor: Congratulations to Erik, our shining star in the Southern skies, on his 15th birthday. Best wishes from Karina, Maria Jose, Stefan and Prins, in Santos, Brazil.


Hi. Welcome to today’s podcast. My name is Edgardo Molina from Pleiades.
Research and Astronomical Studies in Mexico City, Mexico. I am glad to be
sharing with you this subject on this fantastic project, the 365 Days of
Astronomy Podcast.
Today we are describing another interesting project being conducted by a
joint effort between the United States and Mexico.
Last August the casting of a 6.5-meter mirror in Arizona started. This new
mirror will be the heart of a new telescope that will survey infrared objects in
the northern sky with unprecedented sensitivity.
This telescope is planned to be set on the San Pedro Martir Observatory in
Baja California, Mexico.
The telescope is planned to be completed in 2017. At that time, this telescope
will begin the Synoptic All-Sky Infrared Imaging Survey (SASIR) to look for
very far and faint infrared sources. These objects range from dim, “nearby”
stars to distant objects like quasars. The telescope will also have the ability to
study the infrared light from supernovas and other sources with a transient
The mould for the mirror has been filled with glass. Before pouring the glass
pellets (Ohara Japanese high quality optical glass) the mirror mold is loaded
with 1,020 hexagonal non-fusionable cores. The cores will be removed after
several months, when the mirror blank has cooled and been lifted off the
furnace that help the glass fusion process, leaving the voids of the
honeycomb glass structure. This process will allow to save weight on an
otherwise super heavy glass structure that could deform under it’s own
weight. The process is inherited from the space and aeronautical industries,
who use honeycomb structures to save weight and to strengthen structures
by the action of geometrically dispersion of mechanical stresses.
Baja California in Mexico has a long history of world class telescopes, and
the San Pedro Martir Observatory is one of the best observatory sites in the
world. San Pedro Martir is one of the four best places to do serious
astronomical observations under pristine skies, being the other three sites the Atacama Dessert, Mauna Kea Hawaii and the Canary Islands. This infrared
telescope will be the biggest in it’s class in the world.
Project is being conducted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico
(UNAM), the University of California at Berkley, the National Institute for
Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics in Mexico and the University of Arizona
in Tucson.
The estimated cost of the telescope is a figure around $200 million United
States Dollars. This cost is still to be raised from various sources, both in
Mexico, the USA and abroad. Governments and private funding institutions
are welcome to help materialize this magnificent project. UNAM already
opened last year a project coordination office in Mexico City. There is an
atmosphere of enthusiasm to gather all the funds in three years from now.
By the time the telescope is finished, tshe all-sky infrared survey should start
in 2017 and would probably last 5 years. This survey will help us observe
everything in the infrared. This project will certainly have an impact in all
astronomical and astrophysical arenas.
Some of the mirror characteristics are: 6.5 meters in diameter. It will have a
weight of around 10,000 kg. It is being built at special facilities inside the
University of Arizona Mirror lab. The mold is inside the 1000-degree Celsius
furnace and rotating at 7.4 revolutions per minute for the mirror surface to
achieve the curvature required for a focal ratio of f/1.25.
The 2 meter telescope in San Pedro Martir Observatory is nowadays the
largest in that location. After the 6.5m infrared telescope is finished, both will
be used to complete the northern sky infrared survey.
After telescope construction and setup, it will bear the SASIR camera which
has the biggest infrared detectors known to date. This equipment will allow to
surpass the capabilities and goals reached with the previous Two Micron All
Sky Survey that now is 5 years old.
This is all the information available in detail to the general public nowadays. I
will continue doing my research on this project and will hopefully update you
kind audience with the progress of this telescope.
For the 365 days of astronomy, this is Edgardo Molina from Pleiades.
Research and Astronomical Studies in Mexico City, Mexico, signing off and
wishing you “dark skies full of stars.” Thank you!

End of podcast:

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