Spectrophotometry Measures Reflectance Capabilities in Telescopes

Space has both intrigued and mystified mankind for centuries. Ancient cultures charted the night sky and tracked planets by sight until Galileo Galilei first used the telescope to get a deeper look into the night sky. Since then, astronomers have continually sought to improve this technology by creating higher quality and more sensitive equipment. In an effort to continue this development, scientists have recently discovered a new technique that will improve telescope design creating a new generation of highly sensitive telescopes.

The telescope is a complex system of reflecting surfaces designed to bend light and magnify distant objects so that we can see them more clearly. When light enters a telescope, it reflects off a number of mirrors into a smaller mirror that magnifies the object. This means that the more reflective a surface is the better the image will be when light is reflected onto it. To create a more powerful reflected image, scientists have developed a new highly reflective coating and a technique called “long throw sputtering” to more evenly cover the inner surfaces of the telescope. Sputtering creates a uniform coating across the mirror using a low water, partially pressurized environment. Using this technique increases the density of the reflected material which provides much better coverage than the older evaporated coatings.

To be able to quantify both the increase in reflectance and the effectiveness of long throw sputtering, reflectivity measurements were conducted by a UV-VIS Spectrophotometer. They found that the reflective coating was very efficiently distributed using long throw sputtering which caused a measurable increase in the surface reflectance. Additionally, the new reflective coating was also more durable, which would lower the cost of adjustments and repairs on these telescope models once they go into production.

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