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Paper Plate Education
"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate"

Activity: Reflector Flex

Reflector_flex.jpg (37298 bytes)

Demonstrate how modern reflector telescopes use rapid actuators to compensate for gravity-induced distortions of the primary mirror.

Cover a paper bowl with aluminum foil.  Make a depression in the foil to simulate the reflective surface of a parabolic mirror.

Turn the "mirror" on its edge and depress the side of the bowl slightly.  Notice how the mirror's shape is distorted with slight pressure that simulates the force from gravity.  As the mirror moves the vector changes and different distortions occur.  

Note how large modern telescopes have actuators that continually compensate for the distortion of the mirror cells.

Contributed by Chuck Bueter.

 

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Copyright 2012 Chuck Bueter.  All rights reserved.