The Awesome Task of Recoating a Telescope Mirror

If you enjoy pretty pictures of the universe, you owe it to yourself to learn how a common bit of maintenance is done on ESO’s VLT, or Very Large Telescope.

At some point, the reflector used in the VLT is beyond recovery, and they need to strip it of its mirror finish and recoat it.  This seems like it would be straightforward, but some of the most impressive robotics, machinery, engineering, and minds are applied to this task.  If anyone involved in the process is having a bad day, and they break the ceramic mirror base, the telescope would be out of commission for years until a replacement mirror is built.

I’ve worked on multiple critical systems in my career, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.