Sharper Images

Boeing engineers are helping to design the world’s largest telescope

December 12, 2017 in Technology, Space

Typically, Boeing’s computational fluid dynamics and experimental testing facilitate designs of the world’s best aircraft. But Boeing Research & Technology engineers have expanded their “scope” of work - to helping the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization design the world’s largest telescope. When operational, the telescope will produce images at 10 times the clarity of the Hubble telescope.

The structural design of the Giant Magellan Telescope takes careful analysis and research before being built in Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Because the climate of the selected build site in Chile is dry and windy -- which can compromise the quality of images that the telescope will provide -- the telescope will be covered by a protective enclosure that diverts the wind around the structure and away from the mirrors to provide the clearest possible images. That’s where Boeing comes into play with both CFD modeling and recently, water tunnel aerodynamics tunnel testing.

Much like how we validate aircraft design in the water tunnel, a model of the telescope is placed in Boeing's North American Aviation Research Tunnel (a water tunnel housed at Boeing's Huntington Beach, Calif., site) with dye ports embedded in that are connected to colored dye. When the tunnel is turned on, bright streams of colored dye flow around the model, simulating how wind will move around the structure.