Nine-Paneled Mirror for ASTHROS
The mirror on NASA's Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths mission, or ASTHROS, is composed of nine panels, coated in nickel and gold. Here, engineers attach panels to the mirror's support structure. The panels must be aligned to within 0.0001 inches (2.5 micrometers), or a fraction of the width of a human hair.
Manufacturing multiple panels requires less time and expense than making the mirror as a single piece.
NASA contracted Media Lario, an optics company in Bosisio Parini, Italy, to design and produce ASTHROS' full telescope unit, including the primary mirror, a secondary mirror, and supporting structure (called the cradle). The mirror is shown here at Media Lario.
The mission's main science goal is to study stellar feedback, the process by which living stars disperse and reshape clouds of gas and dust that may eventually form new stars. Feedback regulates star formation in many galaxies, and too much can halt star formation entirely. ASTHROS will look at several star-forming regions in our galaxy where feedback takes place, and at distant galaxies containing millions of stars to see how feedback plays out at large scales and in different environments.
A division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the ASTHROS mission for the Astrophysics Division of the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is also building the mission's scientific payload. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, is developing the gondola and pointing systems. The payload cryocooler was developed by Lockheed Martin under NASA's Advanced Cryocooler Technology Development Program. Other key partners include Arizona State University and the University of Miami. ASTHROS' high-performance carbon fiber parts were produced by Persico Marine in Nembro, Italy, and Lamiflex S.p.A in Ponte Nossa, Italy.
NASA's Scientific Balloon Program, and its Columbia Science Balloon Facility, in Palestine, Texas, will provide the balloon and launch services.
ASTHROS will be launched from NASA's Long Duration Balloon Facility in Antarctica, near McMurdo Station. McMurdo Station is managed by the National Science Foundation through the U.S. Antarctic Program.