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MMT Observatory

Coordinates: 31°41′18″N 110°53′06″W / 31.6883°N 110.885°W / 31.6883; -110.885
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MMT Observatory
MMT Observatory
Alternative namesMMTO Edit this at Wikidata
Part ofFred Lawrence Whipple Observatory
Steward Observatory Edit this on Wikidata
Coordinates31°41′18″N 110°53′06″W / 31.6883°N 110.885°W / 31.6883; -110.885 Edit this at Wikidata
OrganizationUniversity of Arizona Edit this on Wikidata
Altitude2,616 m (8,583 ft) Edit this at Wikidata
Telescope styleoptical telescope Edit this on Wikidata
Diameter6.5 m (21 ft 4 in) Edit this at Wikidata
Mountingaltazimuth mount Edit this on Wikidata
Websitewww.mmto.org Edit this at Wikidata
MMT Observatory is located in the United States
MMT Observatory
Location of MMT Observatory
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The MMT Observatory (MMTO) is an astronomical observatory on the site of Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (IAU observatory code 696). The Whipple observatory complex is located on Mount Hopkins, Arizona, US (55 km south of Tucson) in the Santa Rita Mountains. The observatory is operated by the University of Arizona and the Smithsonian Institution, and has a visitor center in nearby Amado, Arizona. The MMTO is the home of the MMT (formerly Multiple Mirror Telescope), which has a primary mirror 6.5 m in diameter. The name comes from the six smaller mirrors originally used before the single primary mirror was installed in 1998. The primary mirror has a special lightweight honeycomb design made by the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory. The MMT is housed in a building which allows the walls and roof around the telescope to be completely rolled back, allowing it to cool down very quickly in order to improve observation.

Multiple Mirror Telescope (1979–1998)[edit]

A rectangular building about the size of a small apartment block stands on a mountaintop, with a vehicle parked in front of it. The building has a wide opening in its front and top, exposing an internal framework structure that holds and somewhat obscures from view a hexagonal arrangement of six circular primary mirrors. In the background, the sky is hazy, hiding the horizon and most of the terrain below the mountain.
The MMT in 1981, showing its six primary mirrors

The Multiple Mirror Telescope operated between 1979 and 1998 with six honeycombed borosilicate mirrors by Corning, each with a diameter of 72 inches (1.8 m), which were donated by the NRO after cancellation of the reconnaissance mission KH-10 (codename DORIAN) based on the Manned Orbiting Laboratory.[1] These mirrors were providing the equivalent gathering area of a 4.5-meter telescope, making it the third largest optical telescope in the world at the time of its dedication. It featured ambitious design innovations including its unusual optical design proposed by Aden Meinel, a co-rotating building and an altitude-azimuth mount.

With the exception of the Large Altazimuth Telescope and William Herschel's 40-foot telescope, major optical telescopes prior to the MMT used equatorial mounts. The MMT heralded a change in telescope design; all major optical telescopes since the MMT have been built with altitude-azimuth mounts. Several technologies pioneered at the MMT contributed to the success of the subsequent generation of large telescopes. These included: high dynamic-range servos for the altitude-azimuth mount; highly accurate pointing that eliminated the need for sky charts; co-alignment and co-phasing of multiple telescopes; improvements to optical performance by attention to the thermal environment of the facility; contributions to vacuum coatings deposition, optics cleaning, and maintenance; and early experiments in co-phased adaptive optics.

MMT (1998–present)[edit]

One of the reasons for its original multiple mirror design was the difficulty of casting large mirrors. One solution to this problem was found by Roger Angel of Steward Observatory, of the University of Arizona, who cast mirrors with a honeycomb structure in the interior of a rotating oven. This made it possible to replace the six mirrors with a single 6.5-meter one. The original building and part of the structure could be reused. The new mirror was the first of its size to be cast and polished in the Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory. The updated MMT, its name no longer an acronym,[2] was rededicated on 20 May 2000.[3]

In late 2002, a novel deformable secondary mirror was added to the telescope.[4] While other adaptive optics designs do their corrections with additional mirrors, minimizing the number of warm surfaces in the light path produces better results in infrared wavelengths. The MMT AO system contributed to the design of the Large Binocular Telescope, which achieved record breaking Strehl ratios with its AO system in 2010.

From 2004 to 2010, approximately 8% of MMT observing time was made accessible to the entire astronomical community via the US National Science Foundation's Telescope System Instrumentation Program (TSIP), administered by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).[5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-21. Retrieved 2017-01-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "History of the Telescope". MMT Observatory. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  3. ^ "Trend-setting MMT Rededicated After Major Mirror Transplant". Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. 2 July 2000. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Astronomers Get Ultrasharp Images With Large Telescope in Arizona". The University of Arizona News. 3 March 2003. Archived from the original on July 5, 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ "Community Access to the 6.5-m Telescope of the MMT Observatory". National Optical Astronomy Observatory. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  6. ^ "Telescope System Instrumentation Program (TSIP)". National Optical Astronomy Observatory. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2015.

External links[edit]