The Mt. Laguna 1.25 Meter Telescope Project
The MLO 1.25M telescope project is a collaboration between the Astronomy program at the University of Kansas and the Department of Astronomy at San Diego State University. The project is the next phase in the evolution of the original, NSF-funded research program entitled ULTRA, Ultra Light Technology for Research in Astronomy. The original collaboration involved the San Diego State University Department of Astronomy, the University of Kansas Astronomy program and the Aerospace Engineering program, Dartmouth College Astronomy, and CMA, Inc. of Tucson. The goal of the 5-year program was to develop and test the feasibility of using composite materials for optical mirrors for research quality telescopes. The mirrors were supplied by CMA while the astronomical partners constructed a platform for testing the mirrors, i.e., built a remote-controlled 1-meter class telescope mount and dome, equipped with state-of-the-art detectors for astronomical observations.
Unfortunately, despite the success with mirrors of smaller diameter (12-15 inches), CMA was never able to produce a 1-meter class mirror capable of meeting the specs required for astronomical observations. However, the telescope infrastructure was completely operational due to a design plan that allowed the option of replacing the composite mirrors and optical tube assembly (OTA) with classical materials. In fact, the design of the dome and mount permitted the inclusion of a mirror up to 1.25-meters in diameter. For this reason, upon completion of the NSF grant, the composite optics and OTA were removed and in 2009, a plan was initiated to upgrade the MLO ULTRA telescope to a classic 1.25-meter design, while upgrading the instrumentation to a CCD camera with a bigger and more sensitive field of view. This plan was completed in 2014, with installation of the telescope optics and new mount in Sept. 2014 and regular research with the instrument to begin by Spring of 2015.
The images above show the installation of the new mount and primary mirror as of Oct. 10, 2013. The secondary will be installed after the wiring for the telescope electronics is completed. Eyepiece viewing is planned for late Nov. 2013 with full instrumentation installed and operational by Spring 2014, weather permitting. The left image shows the telescope while the right gives a fisheye view of the interior dome.
For more details on how you can help make this project a reality, please read our MLO Brochure (pdf).
As of late 2014, the KU astronomy program had collected ~$105,000. If you wish to make a donation to the project, on-line contributions can be made safely at KU Endowment: MLO Telescope Project