Recent reports have suggested that data analyses from the massive South Pole Telescope (SPT) support scientists’ theory that neutrinos are likely responsible for the dark energy phenomenon. Amazingly, the telescope is honing in on and capturing images of cosmic microwave background radiation, or what the National Science Foundation calls “the light left over from the big bang.” Aerotech was part of the design of the SPT; engineers integrated our ATS3600, a dual-axis, large aperture, open-frame linear stage that uses a noncontact linear encoder for high accuracy. We’re republishing our original story about this impressive structure and the remarkable work being carried out by the SPT team.
[Originally published September, 2009] Aerotech is proud to be an integral part of the largest telescope ever deployed at the South Pole. The ten-meter diameter South Pole Telescope (SPT) is a tool that allows astronomers to explore dark energy, the gravitationally repulsive force that many believe is accelerating the expansion of our universe.
In the 1920s, Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is in a constant state of expansion. Since then, scientists have found that the expansion has been speeding up over the past several billion years. Some experts attribute this acceleration to a mysterious phenomenon called dark energy. By gathering data from large galaxy clusters in deep space, the South Pole Telescope will help astronomers learn more about the development and nature of dark energy. Scientists have already discovered many never-before-seen galaxy clusters with the SPT. By studying the evolution of the number density of these galaxy clusters, it may be possible to differentiate between a flaw in our theory of gravity, and the presence of a dark energy component in our universe.
The telescope’s Fourier Transform Spectrometer (FTS) was designed and built by Blue Sky Spectroscopy Inc, provider of the bespoke instrumentation to the THz market. Blue Sky Spectroscopy selected Aerotech stages for its FTS requirements because of their intrinsic accuracy and superior performance in adverse environments.
The XY mount that moves the entire 200 lb object is an ATS3600 with 150 mm travel. This mechanical bearing, ball-screw stage is typically used in applications requiring a large clear aperture. Its rugged three-piece design, incorporating linear motion guide bearings and structural members with exceptional stiffness, also makes it a good selection for applications requiring heavy load capacity. The wide spread of the linear bearings handles the large cantilevered payload created by the 45 degree angle orientation of the stage. Its robust precision-ground ball screw drive provides the accurate step, smooth scanning motions, and long life required under the heavy loading conditions.
The South Pole Telescope is the result of collaboration between the University of Chicago, University of California at Berkley, Case Western Reserve University, University of Illinois, and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and is primarily funded through NSF OPP. For more information about the SPT program, visit the South Pole Telescope home page.