ShareThis Page
News

II-VI makes real impact with NASA

| Thursday, July 21, 2005

II-VI workers toiled for about five years to craft a specialized prism that would allow NASA to capture high-resolution images of the Tempel 1 comet.

All that work paid off on July 4 when a camera containing the prism had a relatively up-close view as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration crashed the Deep Impact probe into the comet. The camera was about 300 miles away from the collision, but the comet is about 268 million miles away from Earth.

Deep Impact separated when it approached the comet, which is roughly half the size of Manhattan. The impactor hurtled into the comet's path at about 23,000 mph as the remaining part of the probe -- called the flyby -- captured pictures of impact.

Colliding into Tempel 1 always was NASA's plan because Deep Impact was designed to drill into the comet's core to help scientists determine just what Tempel 1 is made of.

Researchers suspect the comet has been around since the creation of the solar system and contains material that could provide clues to the solar system's formation.

Colorado-based Ball Aerospace and Technologies tapped laser-optics manufacturer II-VI to develop a prism that would work in Deep Impact's high-resolution camera.

The amber-colored zinc selenide prism resembles a small pyramid and fits into the palm of a hand.

II-VI Manager of Precision Engineering Alan Hedges said the company developed about eight prisms at the Clinton Township facility before it had the required two to send to Ball Aerospace.

Ball Aerospace then fit the prism into its high-resolution instrument, which consists of a telescope, infrared spectrometer and camera.

Hedges said it took considerable effort to adapt II-VI's technology for NASA's needs.

II-VI Chief Financial Officer Craig Creaturo said zinc selenide prisms usually are used for industrial lasers and infrared imaging.

"The basic technology, we use it a lot," Creaturo said. "But usually we're not making something that's going to travel 23,000 mph."

Creaturo said the project was unique, although it wasn't the first time II-VI has created products for the aerospace industry. He said the company frequently works to adapt technology for specific solutions.

"That's what we do best," he said. Additional Information:

On the Web:

II-VI: www.ii-vi.com.

NASA: www.nasa.gov.

Tempel 1 meets Deep Impact

Comet 9P, or Tempel 1, was discovered in 1867 by Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel of France. It orbits the sun once every 5.5 years between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists believe it was created when the solar system was formed and suspect its makeup has remained unchanged.

Diameter: 4 miles.

Distance from Earth: 268 million miles.

Speed: 23,000 mph.

Travel time: Deep Impact took 172 days to reach Tempel 1.

Collision: The impact of the 820-pound probe colliding with the comet was compared to a mosquito running into a commercial jet.

Impact size: Scientists haven't determined the crater size, but believe it was larger than anticipated. They estimated the crater could be as large as a football field.

Source: NASA, II-VI, Ball Aerospace

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me