The Cool Car Club gets into the mirror business

Cool Car Club gathers on a perch overlooking the polishing room.

Jerry G. Bryant
Quail Creek’s CC Riders (Cool Car Club members) enjoyed the efforts of guest Flight Leads, Gage and Kathleen Camp, for our trip on January 11 to the University of Arizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory. Gage delivered a day of wall to wall fun starting with our check-in at our usual spot, The Arts & Tech Building parking lot. As it turns out, besides the car club, two hiking groups were also checking in at the same time. Covered in cold air and standing in the fog, I tried to poach hikers to join the mirror lab tour telling them we were the better deal for the day. Some agreed but our tour was fully subscribed with no room left so the hikers hit their respective trails while we mounted up and headed north to the Mercado District in Tucson. The Mercado is the western terminus of the Tucson Street Car Line. Stop No. 18 on the street car put us a short walk away from our destination.
The Mirror Lab is located under the eastern wing of the U of A football stadium. Inside we were treated to an expert presentation on the history of the lab and the processes developed here that today produce the largest telescope mirrors in the world. We were humbled by the mental horsepower required to conceive the processes and produce these mirrors. By comparison I realized I have a go-cart engine in my head.
Unlike the solid-glass mirrors used in the past these mirrors have a honeycomb structure inside that provides rigidity, stability and a substantial weight reduction. To produce these reflective giants, borosilicate glass chunks are procured from Japan. These chunks are then melted, molded and spun cast into a paraboloid shape in a custom-designed rotating oven.
On our tour we saw both the rotating oven where the mirrors are cast and polishing area where the glass surface is prepared for the aluminum coating that will be applied on site at the telescope. The lab is currently casting 8.4-meter mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope that is being constructed in Chile. This telescope will be the largest and most advanced earth-based telescope in the world when complete. To date, five of the seven 8.4-meter mirrors have been produced. I shudder to think of the bad luck that would ensue if U of A football fans jumped up and down with such enthusiasm that one of the mirrors cracked. Our docents assured us that the mirrors are well protected from vibrations.
Following this wonderful tour, we hopped the street car again for a short ride back to “The Dutch” eatery and refuge. We were hosted there with great hospitality including special “Cool Car Club” menus and good food. Thank you, Gage and Kathleen, for a fun day.
Next month the CC Riders are heading north for an overnighter at the Gold Canyon Golf Resort. Golfers will hit the links and non-golfers will be visiting the Goldfield Ghost Town. The next day we’ll all drive up to Canyon Lake for a cruise aboard the Dolly Steamboat. In March the club will have its fourth annual charity fundraiser Road Rally featuring a new starting and ending point as well fresh navigation conundrums and check points to challenge the field. Sound like fun? Contact Jerry G. Bryant at [email protected] or 520-829-7071 to join. I subscribe to the philosophy that people are more important than cars so, if you think your car is cool, so do we.