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Peter Gao
Graduate student

The Large Zenith Telescope (LZT) in the University of British Columbia Research Forest has a very special observing mirror: it is a mirror made of Mercury. The liquid metal is placed into the 6-metre pan, and then spun up so as to achieve a parabolic surface. Such a telescope is often ~100 times cheaper than one of a similar size, and weigh much less; the LZT only weights 3 tonnes, and yet is already the third largest optical telescope in North America. As the name suggests, and due to the liquid Mercury, the telescope cannot tilt, and thus will always observe the sky directly above it. Despite this limitation however, it can still carry out its main objective: to survey the sky for the faint signatures of supernovae, distant galaxies, and quasars, which will allow us to further our understanding of Cosmology and the evolution of galaxies.

pgao@caltech.edu

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