New mirrors reflect change in astronomy

The largest liquid-mirror telescope on Earth is the Large Zenith Telescope in western Canada. With a diameter of six meters (over 9 feet), its kevlar container rotates at 6 rpm to maintain a mercury mirror inside as a nearly perfect paraboloid.

Canada's big LZT is located at a University of British Columbia research park near Vancouver. As a LMT, it ranks among the largest optical telescopes on Earth.And compared to similar sized conventional-mirror instruments, the LZT was inexpensive to construct, thanks in part, to cannibalized parts from a defunct U.S. telescope.

"The Large Zenith Telescope project began in 1994, as a collaboration between scientists at UBC, Laval University and the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris," according to Dr. Paul Hickson, LZT'sdirector . "The principal scientific goals of the project are to measure spectral energy distributions and redshifts of over 100,000 galaxies and quasars, and to detect distant supernovae. These observations will allow us to study cosmology, the large-scale structure of the universe, and the evolution of galaxies."

Lou Varricchio, M.Sc., was a senior science writer at the NASAAmes Research Center in California. He is currently a member of the NASA-JPLSolar System Ambassador program in Vermont. He received the U.S. Civil Air Patrol's Maj. Gen. Chuck Yeager Aerospace Education Achievement Award.

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