eso9722 — Organisation Release
VLT Mirror Coating Plant Arrives at Paranal
12 August 1997
One more important step within the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) project has just been successfully accomplished. After a journey of more than 12,000 km, the enormous coating plant for the 8.2-m VLT Zerodur mirrors has just arrived safely at the Paranal Observatory in the Atacama desert. Here it is now being installed in the Mirror Maintenance Building (MMB) , a large and complex structure that has been constructed next to the base camp, at the foot of the Paranal mountain.
In order to hold the large VLT mirrors, this coating plant has a diameter of 9.4 metres. It will be used to cover the large mirror surfaces with a thin layer of highly reflecting material (normally aluminium, maybe silver at a later stage), thus ensuring that nearly 100% of the photons from celestial objects impinging on the mirror may also be recorded by the sensitive telescope instruments. Due to the unavoidable deterioration of this reflective layer, for instance oxidation and abrasion by airborne particles, the mirrors must be re-coated at intervals of some years.
The VLT coating plant was built under contract with Linde A.G. and assembled at the Deggendorfer Werft in a city at the Danube River, some 150 km northeast of Munich. An explanatory text with a series of photos from this location was published earlier this year by ESO.
For the transport to Chile, the VLT coating plant was first loaded onto a river barge in the Deggendorf harbour and it took about one week to travel via the new Rhine-Main-Danube Canal to the Belgian port of Antwerp. Here it was shifted to the protective hold of a large oceangoing vessel which departed on July 9. The crossing of the Atlantic went smoothly, so did the passage through the Panama Canal, and it arrived in the Chilean port of Antofagasta four weeks later, on August 7.
The last leg of the long journey, 130 km from Antofagasta to the Paranal observatory, was covered by desert road. The special transport, with a total weight of over 100 tonnes, went according to the plan and without any major problems.
The present series of photos shows some scenes from the transport and the unloading at Paranal.
Please note that since these images were electronically recorded and were primarily obtained to document the VLT construction activities, they are not of full professional quality for photographic reproduction.