World’s Biggest Eye on the Sky (E-ELT)
photograph by L. Trollope.
Large Telescopes are considered worldwide as one of the highest
priorities in ground-based astronomy. They will vastly advance
astrophysical knowledge, allowing detailed studies of subjects
including planets around other stars, the first objects in the
Universe, super-massive black holes, and the nature and distribution
of the dark matter and dark energy which dominate the Universe”,
said Dr Gerard Gilligan, the Hon. Secretary of Liverpool
Astronomical Society. So it was a privilege to attend the latest
monthly meeting of the society, on April 15, 2011, and to hear a
fascinating talk given by Professor David Walker on this subject.
Professor Walker is poised between industry and education. He is
University of Wales Professor of Optics at Glyndwr University;
Professorial Research Associate, University College of London and
Research Director at Zeeko Ltd.
His subject was his involvement with the development of what will be
the world’s largest telescope to date. Having given us a brief
glimpse of the history of significant past large telescopes, and of
the competitors for the present instrument, he gave his audience a
very interesting insight into the construction of the telescope,
including the complexities of producing the 948 hexagonal mirrors
which will comprise this latest dish, which will operate from the
E-ELT site in the Atacama Desert in Chile. He explained some of the
logistical and technical difficulties which limit the size of
one-piece mirrors and which necessitate the complex positioning and
alignment of multiple mirrors to work as one in larger instruments.
This will enable the telescope to probe more thoroughly into deeper
space and to provide information to tackle issues such as those
outlined by Mr Gilligan. Later Professor Walker alluded to the oft
asked question as to why spend money on space exploration at a time
of severe financial constraints. His answer was to remind us not
only of the astronomical advances and of the many valuable insights
which are gained but also of the enormous “spin-offs”
which accompany such work, including the challenge of laser fusion
which could probably meet the world’s energy requirements from
seawater. And this would be an answer to a question which cannot be
dodged! Other spinoffs have included the development of hi-tec
polishing machines for the mirrors which have already found
application in medicine and industry.
It was reassuring to hear of Britain at the forefront and the
professor’s enthusiasm for his subject was infectious. His talk
provided an appetiser for non-members present to join the Liverpool
This Society has many functions besides
holding these monthly meetings considering engaging topics.
are public events, held in local parks or educational
establishments, and members meet weekly at Leighton Observatory at Pex Hill, on Wednesday's at 7.30 pm.
In addition members can receive
publications and are entitled to telescope rental. Experts are also
on hand to help those less experienced.
Membership fees are £15 pa
for adults and £5 for juniors (10 to 17 years old).
For more information; click on:-