There are currently several large telescope projects. One new telescope is the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) which is planned to be launched into space on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in Spring 2019. It is expected that JWST will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System. The primary mirror will consist of 18 mirror segments made of beryllium coated with gold to give a total aperture diameter of 6.5 m. It is critical that the 18 mirror segments are properly phased so they perform as a single 6.5 m diameter mirror. JWST's backplane is the large structure that holds and supports the big hexagonal mirrors of the telescope. The backplane has an important job as it must carry not only the 6.5 m diameter primary mirror plus other telescope optics, but also the entire module of scientific instruments. The mechanical stability and thermal characteristics of the graphite composite backplane are extremely important for optimum performance of the telescope. JWST has many challenging optical testing requirements including a) Primary mirror figure testing, b) Back structure measurement, c) Segment phasing, d) Thermal and mechanical strain, and e) Vibrational dynamics.
Another telescope currently being constructed is the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), a large ground-based telescope consisting of seven 8.5 m diameter mirrors that will be built on a peak in the Andes Mountains near several existing telescope facilities at Las Campanas, Chile at an altitude of over 2,550 meters. The seven 8.4 m diameter mirror segments will be phased to give a telescope having the resolving power of a telescope 24.5 meters in diameter. GMT is expected to be operational for many decades, enabling breakthrough science ranging from studies of the first stars and galaxies in the universe to the exploration of extrasolar alien worlds. The GMT is poised to answer some of humanity’s biggest questions about the nature of exoplanets and whether we are alone in the universe, about the beginning of the universe to understand the formation and evolution of the galaxies, about the origin of the chemical elements, and how black holes grow. Like the JWST, the GMT has many challenging testing requirements.
During this talk we will describe the JWST and the GMT and the dynamic interferometry techniques that have been developed to measure high quality large telescope optics and the surface vibration and stability characteristics of the supporting structure required for high-quality performance large telescopes.