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NASA Experts Try To Overcome Lyman Alpha Optical Challenge For The Next Space Telescope

By Menahem, Zen menahem.zen@gmail.com | May 31, 2017 12:05 PM EDT

NASA optical experts are investigating the way to overcome the Lyman Alpha limit in the future telescope. They aim to create a highly reflective aluminum mirrors, sensitive to the broad spectral range, from the infrared, optical and far-ultraviolet wavelength bands.

This effort to overcome Lyman Alpha limit is designated for the future space telescope after the James Webb Space Telescope. The Lyman Alpha limit is a range between 90- to 130-nanometer in the mirror's high reflexivity which is produced by aluminum mirrors in the telescope.

Unfortunately, the aluminum mirrors must be protected with a certain protective coating to prevent oxidation, thus reducing the Lyman Alpha limit. Up to now, according to NASA, there is no coating that sufficient to protect the aluminum from losing its reflectivity.

Their research will be applied in the future space telescope following the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2018. Astronomers call James Webb Space Telescope as the super-powerful telescope, according to the report from Daily Express. However, NASA intends to increase the sensitivity of its space telescope by overcoming the Lyman Alpha limit.

In order to search for a way to overcome the reduction of Lyman Alpha limit in the protective coating, a team of NASA scientist led by Manuel Quijada is conducting a series of research. They tried to develop the technique to create a highly reflective aluminum mirror, which is able to detect a broad range of the spectrum.

"Aluminum needs to be protected from naturally occurring oxides with a thin film or substrate of transparent material,” Quiada said regarding the Lyman Alpha limit in the aluminum protective coating. “The low reflectivity of coatings in this range is one of the biggest constraints in far-ultraviolet telescope and spectrograph design.”

In their effort to reduce the Lyman Alpha limit, Quijada and team investigated three different techniques and materials for aluminum coating. They expected the new method will be able to increase the sensitivity of the lens for the next generation of space telescope after the James Webb Space Telescope. Watch the footage of the James Webb Space Telescope below:

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