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02-06-2020, Mainz, Germany

Sights set on the sun – DKIST delivers fascinating first images

The largest solar telescope in the world uses a mirror substrate made of the glass-ceramic ZERODUR® from SCHOTT

The first images from the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) were published at the end of January. They show unprecedented details of the sun’s surface and offer a preview of the outstanding results that are expected from this 4-meter solar telescope. This imaging quality is made possible by a monolithic 4.26-meter mirror made of the glass-ceramic ZERODUR®. The huge mirror diameter and the extraordinary material properties make it possible to observe structures on the sun that are 25 kilometers in size, although the sun is almost 150 million kilometers away. This equates to observing a pea from a distance of 30 kilometers. The resolving power is thus 2.6 times higher than that of the largest solar telescope to date, the Big Bear Solar Observatory near Los Angeles, which also uses a primary mirror made of ZERODUR®.
“To manufacture a mirror substrate to the required specifications was clearly a major technological challenge. SCHOTT was the perfect partner for our project and did a great job,” said DKIST Project Manager Joseph McMullin.

SCHOTT delivered the ZERODUR® disc for the primary mirror to the polisher, the Optical Science Center of the University of Arizona in Tucson, in 2014.

The NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope, which is located on the 3,000-meter-high Mount Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui, is expected to usher in a new era of solar research and enables a leap forward in our understanding of the sun and its impact on our planet. The National Solar Observatory (NSO) is responsible for the research. It is operated by the US umbrella organization AURA (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc.) and is supported by 22 research institutions from several countries.

In numerous superlative telescope projects – like the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), the Keck Telescopes on Hawaii, or the flying NASA telescope Sofia – the glass-ceramic ZERODUR® has been the gold standard for mirror substrates due to its thermal expansion coefficient close to zero. The material was developed by SCHOTT in Mainz more than 50 years ago. It ensures extreme shape accuracy and ensures sharp images from space. SCHOTT is currently manufacturing the mirror substrate components for the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) of the ESO (European Southern Observatory), with a primary mirror of 39 m in diameter, it will be the largest eye on the sky when it achieves first light on the Chilean Cerro Armazones in 2025. SCHOTT has already delivered segments for the fourth mirror of the telescope optics as well as two mirror substrates in the 4-m class for the secondary and tertiary mirrors of the ELT. The company is now starting production of more than 900 mirror substrates for the segmented primary mirror.

SCHOTT is a leading international technology group in the areas of specialty glass, glass-ceramics and related high-tech materials. With over 130 years of experience, the company is an innovative partner to many industries, including the home appliance, pharma, electronics, optics, life sciences, automotive and aviation industries. SCHOTT has a global presence with production sites and sales offices in 34 countries. In the 2018/2019 fiscal year, the group generated sales of around $2.54 billion with over 16,200 employees. 

Press contact:
Rina Della Vecchia 
SCHOTT North America, Inc. 
Office: 914-831-2286 

Matt McLoughlin 
Gregory FCA on behalf of SCHOTT  
Phone: 610-228-2123 
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