For me, these were the two most significant demos at the 2019 Stellafane Convention in Springfield, Vermont:
(1) Silvering large mirrors, no vacuum needed
We had a demonstration by Peter Pekurar on how to apply a layer of Silver (metallic Ag, not aluminum) onto a telescope mirror, accurately, with a protective, non-tarnishing overcoat, that works well. I looked through such a scope; the view was quite good, and I was told that interferograms are great also.
What’s more, the process involves overcoating a mirror with spray bottles of the reagents, without any vacuum apparatus needed at all. Note: Silver coated, not aluminum coated. This is big for me because the upper limit at our club’s aluminizer is 12.5″, but some of us are working on larger mirrors than that; commercial coaters currently charge many hundreds of dollars to coat them.
You can find information on some of these materials at Angel Gilding. Peter P said he will have an article out in not too long. Here are a few photos and videos of the process:
Finished mirror; notice it’s a little blotchy
(2) Demo and links for Bath Interferometer (see http://gr5.org/bath )
How to set up and use a Bath interferometer to produce highly accurate interferograms of any mirror for many orders of magnitude less cash than a Zygo interferometer. As I wrote earlier, Alan Tarica had taken the lead on fabricating one at the CCCC – NCA ATM workshop, and we eventually got it to work, but found it rather frustrating and fiddly to use.
The presenter is a HS teacher, and it shows: he explains things very clearly! On his website ( http://gr5.org/bath ) you can get plans for 3-D printing the parts for the Bath device, if you have any access to a 3-D printer, so you can print the parts out for yourself. He also has links to vendors that are selling parts for it, such as certain small lenses, mirrors and beam splitters. He shows you where you can get them for very little money from Surplus Shed and such places. Or you can purchase his really inexpensive kits that he’s already 3-D printed for you. Plus parts for an XYZ stage, which you will need for fine focus. The whole setup (not counting mirror stand and two tripods, which he assumes you have access to already) is under $130.
I will need to look carefully at our setup as built almost completely by Alan, and see how it differs and what we would need to do to make it better. The problem is that there are lots of little, tiny parts, and many of them need to be adjustable. We saw him doing LOTS of little adjustments!
Before his talk, I had absolutely no idea how this (or similar interformeters) really worked. Now I understand: the interference fringes that we see are really contour lines – like we see on on a USGS topo map, only with the mirror tilted in one direction or the other. A big difference with the USGS topo map is that there, the contour lines (isohypses – a new word for me today) are often 10 feet to 100 meters apart. In interferometry, the contour intervals are either one or one-half lambda (wavelength of light) apart – a really tiny amount! We need that level of accuracy because the surface we are studying is sooooooo flat that no other measuring system can work. His explanation of this whole thing now makes perfect sense to me. And the purpose of the software (free!) is to un-slant the mirror and re-draw it using the countour-line information.
Beautifully clear explanation!
Caution: a friend who works professionally in optics told me his team had made three Bath interferometers, using cheap but good quality ebay xyz stages, and found that they were just too much trouble; so they borrowed a very expensive commercial interferometer (costing many tens of kilobucks) from another department and are using that instead. I’m not selling my house to get a Zygo interferometer!!! But I will try the Bath interferometer instead.