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11:06 AM Thu, Sept. 20th

Astronomy club hosts mirror lab expert; goes to see Mars Rover

The Prescott Astronomy Club is hosting a speaker from the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab Saturday.

Dean Ketelsen is research specialist for Steward Mirror Lab's mirror polishing team, and he will be speaking on the mirror-making facility with slides and video.

The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Episcopal Church, which is located along Ruger Road just north of the Prescott airport. The public is welcome to attend the free event.

The lab's team of scientists and engineers is making giant lightweight mirrors of unprecedented power for a new generation of optical and infrared telescopes, according to its Web site.

These mirrors are a radical departure from the conventional solid-glass mirrors used in the past. They are honeycombed on the inside. They are made out of borosilicate glass that is melted, molded and spun into shape in a specially designed rotating oven. These honeycomb mirrors offer the advantages of their solid counterparts – rigidity and stability – but they can be made significantly larger and dramatically lighter.

The Mirror Lab team has also developed a revolutionary new method to polish the honeycomb mirrors with a deeply curved, parabolic surface that gives them a focal length much shorter than conventional mirrors. Such so-called fast mirrors not only improve telescope performance, but they can fit into a much shorter telescope body that requires a smaller, less expensive enclosure, according to the Web site.

Several local Astronomy Club members plan to attend the Coconino County Fair this weekend to see a full-sized Mars Rover.

The fair will take place at Fort Tuthill, just south of Flagstaff along the west side of Interstate 17.

The United States Geological Survey and Jet Propulsion Lab will have the rover on display every day at the fair.

Staff from both USGS and JPL will be on hand to answer questions about how the Mars Rover operates and communicates back to Earth.

The Mars Rover will be displayed in the third building on the left upon entering the fairgrounds.

Entry to the fair is $6 (or $3 for seniors) and parking is $2. The fair runs today through Monday afternoon.