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  • March 2013

Optics InfoBase > Spotlight on Optics > Slewing Mirror Telescope optics for the early observation of UV/optical photons from Gamma-Ray Bursts

Slewing Mirror Telescope optics for the early observation of UV/optical photons from Gamma-Ray Bursts

Published in Optics Express, Vol. 21 Issue 2, pp.2263-2278 (2013)
by S. Jeong, J. W. Nam, K. B. Ahn, I. H. Park, S. W. Kim, J. Lee, H. Lim, S. Brandt, C. Budtz-Jørgensen, A. J. Castro-Tirado, P. Chen, M. H. Cho, J. N. Choi, B. Grossan, M. A. Huang, A. Jung, J. E. Kim, M. B. Kim, Y. W. Kim, E. V. Linder, K. W. Min, G. W. Na, M. I. Panasyuk, J. Ripa, V. Reglero, G. F. Smoot, J. E. Suh, S. Svertilov, N. Vedenkin, and I. Yashin

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Spotlight summary: For nearly 30 years following the discovery of Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) the origin of these brief flashes of high-energy radiation has been a complete mystery. The key to unraveling the physics of these enigmatic objects and the main challenge lies in the ability to accurately localize events in time to obtain detailed follow-up observations with X-ray, optical, and radio telescopes.

A major breakthrough in this area was the launch of the Swift satellite featuring rapid slewing technology and sophisticated onboard computing that together deliver accurate localizations in less than a minute after the burst is detected. This new way of detecting bursts from space coupled with the development of robotic optical telescopes on the ground capable of autonomous response within seconds of receiving the localization enabled, for the first time, high-fidelity studies of GRBs. In the Swift era multi-wavelength observations within the first few minutes of the explosion became routine and produced an impressive stream of discoveries widely recognized among the top scientific breakthroughs of the last decade. Examples include: 1) firm association of GRBs with the gravitational collapse of massive stars in young stellar populations, 2) discovery of flaring activity in early X-ray and optical light curves of GRBs, and 3) discovery of the prompt optical emission associated with internal shocks in the ultra-relativistic outflows powering GRBs. The game in this field is now shifting to even earlier times requiring even faster response that will allow detailed multi-wavelength studies of the explosion mechanism. The Slewing Mirror Telescope (SMT) onboard the Ultra-Fast Flash Observatory-pathfinder (UFFO-p) is a great step forward in this direction. The paper by Jeong et al. discusses the design, construction, and testing of SMT.

The UFFO-p concept, like Swift, couples the high-energy localization capability of the UFFO Burst Alert Telescope (UBAT) with an immediate optical/UV follow-up using a 10-cm telescope. A major advance of the design by Jeong et al.is the application of the 15-cm flat slewing mirror that effectively allows pointing the optical telescope at any target within the ±35 deg UBAT field of view without slewing the entire spacecraft. This in turn cuts the response time down to approximately 1 second (30-100 times faster than Swift). The telescope is a Ritchey-Chretien design with effective focal length of 1.14 m. The pointing accuracy, determined by the finite spacing between the teeth in the drive gear, is 2.56 arcmin, fully sufficient given the 17-arcmin field of view. The primary mirror, made of Zerodur, weighs only 482 g (57% reduction compared to typical mass) to facilitate fast slewing without excessive torque and recoil. Assuming a further reduction in weight (about 70% total), this design can be scaled to 40-cm aperture weighing approximately 7.5 kg that can still be accommodated on small spacecraft.

The authors devote special attention to testing in preparation to the launch of the instrument onboard the Lomonosov satellite on a 96-minute orbit. This includes thermal analysis, static load tests, slewing mirror performance (speed, pointing accuracy, settling time), optics performance, and an overall system validation test of the flight model. Space environment testing includes measurements of response to thermal shock and vibration. All results were well within the design specifications, indicating that the instrument will survive the launch and deployment for a successful mission. The UFFO SMT promises to be the first space instrument to use fast slewing mirror technology in GRB observation and will deliver critically important multi-wavelength data within the critical first seconds of the explosion.

--Przemyslav Wozniak

Technical Division: Optical Design and Instrumentation
ToC Category: Optical Design and Fabrication
OCIS Codes: (110.0110) Imaging systems : Imaging systems
(220.0220) Optical design and fabrication : Optical design and fabrication

Posted on March 15, 2013

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