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Pride of place: Canton glass plant supplies Kepler mirror

Post Time:Mar 24,2009Classify:Company NewsView:270

CANTON — Employees of the Canton Corning plant have a special feeling when they consider NASA's Kepler spacecraft, launched earlier this month to help scientists make breakthrough discoveries about Earth-like planets.

At the heart of the Kepler telescope is a primary mirror made of Corning's ultra-low thermal expansion fused silica glass that took 10 months to make at the Canton plant four years ago.

"There's a lot of sense of pride for the plant," Corning spokeswoman Sarah I. Horvath said.

The unmanned Kepler spacecraft left Cape Canaveral in Florida on March 6 to peer for at least 31/2 years at a patch of space in the Milky Way, looking for planets that resemble our own. The telescope will carefully watch for any cyclical dimming among the stars, indicating the passage of a planet between the distant star and Earth's vantage point. Carefully measuring the fluctuations can indicate the density of a planet orbiting a star, helping scientists suggest which might sustain life as we know it.

"Around here, there are two things that people are always excited to talk about," said Mary J. Edwards, Ogdensburg, product line supervisor for the Canton plant's Kepler project, in an internal publication released by Corning. "The first is our role in creating the mirror for the Hubble Telescope in the late 1970s. The other is the fact that we make space shuttle windows."

The Kepler spacecraft adds another special project to the list, Ms. Edwards said.

"If the NASA researchers have it right, Kepler will help us understand if our Earth is unique, or if others like it are out there," she said. "It's amazing to know that Corning could be making such meaningful discoveries possible."

Corning engineer Gregory L. Murray, Potsdam, is following Kepler's progress with his children.

"It's great to be able to let them know that the Canton mirror is part of a NASA launch," he said. "It's probably the single-best accomplishment I've been involved with during my 13 or so years with Corning. Many people here in Canton did their very best on this project."

The Canton Corning plant on McAdoo Road in the town of DeKalb has produced a number of mirror blanks over the years, each with its own challenges. The Kepler blank, produced for subcontractor Brashear LP, uses a sandwich-like design with front and back sheets attached to a core.

Brashear polished the blank and applied an optical coating to make it collect light and focus on a fused silica corrector plate, which also was made at the Canton plant.

Source: watertowndailytimes.comAuthor: shangyi

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