In 1977, the University of California and the California Institute of Technology teamed up to build a reflecting telescope that would be twice as large as the Hale telescope at Palomar Mountain, which has a 200-inch mirror.
The task wouldn’t be easy — or perhaps even possible. A mirror that large could cost as much as a billion dollars, and would be so heavy that it would be hard to keep it from collapsing under its own weight.
So the team came up with another idea. They would build a telescope that had a single mirror made up of 36 small, thin mirror pieces, called segments. These segments would each be 6 feet (1.8 meters) in diameter, hexagon-shaped, and linked together in a grid the size of a tennis court. Computers would keep all the mirrors lined up. Together, they would weigh only about as much as the 200-inch mirror, but be four times its size.
The team received a donation from the William M. Keck Foundation, and started work in 1985.
|Light collector:||36 aluminum-coated glass mirror segments|
(10 m) total