Development of cold-slumping glass mirrors for imaging
D. Vernani1, R. Banham1, O. Citterio1, F. Sanvito1, G. Valsecchi1, G. Pareschi2, M. Ghigo2, E. Giro3
M. Doro4, M. Mariotti4
1 Media Lario Technologies, Località Pascolo – 23842 Bosisio Parini (LC), Italy.
2 INAF / Brera Astronomical Observatory, via E. Bianchi 46 – 23807 Merate (LC), Italy
3 INAF / Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo Dell’Osservatorio 5, 35122, Padova
4 Università and INFN Padova, Via Marzolo 8, 35131 Padova (PD), Italy
The development of lightweight glass mirrors manufactured via cold-slumping technique for Imaging Atmospheric
Cherenkov Telescope is presented. The mirror elements have a sandwich-like structure where the reflecting and backing
facets are composed by glass sheets with an interposed honeycomb aluminum core. The reflecting coating is deposited
in high vacuum by means of physical vapor deposition and consists of aluminum with an additional protective layer of
SiO2. The mirror fabrication and environmental qualification by accelerated ageing, thermal cycling and coating
adhesion are presented together with the optical performances measured as angular resolution and reflectivity obtained
on spherical, 1 squared meter mirror prototypes.
Keywords: Advance Optics, Segmented Mirror, Sandwich Mirror, Cherenkov Telescope
The emission of the gamma-ray by cosmic sources was predicted by scientists long before the real experimental
detection. Theoretical works by E. Feenberg and H. Primakoff in 1948 , S. Hayakawa in 1952 , and P. Morrison in
1958  had led scientists to believe that a number of different processes, which were occurring in the universe, would
result in gamma-ray emission. The first true astrophysical gamma-ray sources were solar flares, which revealed the
strong 2.223 MeV line predicted by P. Morrison. Significant gamma-ray emission from our galaxy was first detected in
1967 by the gamma-ray detector aboard the OSO-3 satellite . Perhaps the most spectacular discovery in gamma-ray
astronomy came in the late 1960s and early 1970s from a constellation of defense satellites which were put into orbit for
a completely different reason. Detectors on board the Vela satellite series, designed to detect flashes of gamma-rays
from nuclear bomb blasts, began to record bursts of gamma-rays not from the vicinity of the Earth, but from deep space
. Today, these Gamma Ray Bursts (GRB) are seen to last for fractions of a second to minutes and then fading after
briefly, constituting one of the prevalent topics of modern astrophysics.
Very High Energy (VHE) gamma rays, with photon energies over ~30 GeV, can also be detected by ground based
experiments. In fact, such high energy photons interact high up in the atmosphere and generate an air shower of
secondary particles. These particles emit the so-called Cherenkov light, a faint blue light. The Cherenkov light
illuminates an area of about 250 m diameter on the ground and a telescope located somewhere within the light will
detect the air shower, provided that its mirror area is large enough to collect enough photons. The image obtained with
the telescope shows the track of the air shower, which points back to the celestial object where the incident gamma-ray
originated. The Crab Nebula, a steady source of so called TeV gamma-rays, was first detected in 1989 by the Whipple
Observatory . The Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescope (IACT) is the technique that currently achieves the
highest sensitivity in the VHE gamma-ray observations. Gamma-ray astronomy has experienced a major breakthrough
with the impressive astrophysical results obtained mainly by the current generation of Cherenkov experiments like
HESS -, VERITAS , MAGIC , and CANGAROO . IACT gamma-ray astronomy observations are, for
the moment, limited by non-gamma ray backgrounds at lower energies, and, at higher energy, by the number of photons
that can be detected. Larger area detectors and better background suppression are essential for progress in the field.
Some new experiments, like HESS II  and MAGIC II , have been recently undertaken aiming at improving the
Advanced Optical and Mechanical Technologies in Telescopes and Instrumentation, edited by Eli Atad-Ettedgui,
Dietrich Lemke, Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7018, 70180V, (2008) · 0277-786X/08/$18 · doi: 10.1117/12.790631
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7018 70180V-1
2008 SPIE Digital Library -- Subscriber Archive Copy
capability of the existing IACT observatories. The impressive physics achievements obtained with the present
generation instruments has triggered the initiative of astrophysicists to consider future ground-based gamma-ray
observatories, like CTA  and AGIS , consisting in large array of telescopes.
All of these Cherenkov telescopes use optical systems consisting of large segmented mirrors, focusing the Cherenkov
light onto photon detectors made of photomultiplier to resolve the image of the air shower. Task of the optical system of
IACTs is to collect Cherenkov light and to focus it onto the detector. The point spread function should ideally be smaller
than the pixel size over the entire field of view. Whereas the imaging performance of IACTs is modest compared to
normal astronomical telescopes, the cost-effective design and the lightweight of the mirrors of large Cherenkov
telescopes is non trivial. Different technologies have been adopted so far for the production of the Cherenkov segmented
mirrors. The different technologies can be divided into three main groups:
aluminized ground-glass mirrors manufactured with standard technique starting from raw blanks;
composite sandwich structure mirrors manufactured via direct machining of each individual piece;
composite sandwich structure mirrors manufactured via replication process from a mould.
Ground-glass mirror solution has been often preferred (e.g. HEGRA , CAT , HESS, VERITAS) primarily
because of its technical maturity, but at cost of a quite long time of production. Moreover, the ground-glass mirrors are
quite heavy translating into increasing cost and complexity for the telescope mechanical structure. Thanks to the limits
of the ground-glass technology, the idea to make use of lightweight mirror consisting of composite sandwich structure
came to pass since the very beginning of IACT astronomy. In sandwich construction, membranes (such as sheet steel,
aluminum, glass, or plastic) are bonded to both side of a core material. This type of construction is widely utilized in
products ranging from doors and tables to aircrafts, boats and satellites and is characterized by high strength-to-weight.
The first Cherenkov Telescope employing composite sandwich mirrors had been the MARK 3 experiment, for which a
replication process had been developed by making use of aluminum honeycomb core and Alanod® face sheets . The
CANGAROO III telescope, instead, adopts composite sandwich mirrors consisting of rigid foamed core pinched by
Fiber Reinforced Plastic sheets; in this case the structure is placed on a mould and curved in an auto-clave for shape
replication . Also the MAGIC mirrors are composite structure, in this case consisting of an aluminum face sheet pre-
machined to spherical shape and glued to an aluminum honeycomb inside a thin aluminum box making up the raw
blank; each individual raw blank is subsequently polished by diamond milling . For the MAGIC II telescope 236
one squared meter mirrors have been manufactured, the first 136 mirrors have been realized with an improvement of the
technique already adopted for the MAGIC telescope , whereas the remaining 100 mirrors have been manufactured
with the cold-slumping technique here described (the status of the 100 mirrors for the MAGIC II telescope is presented
in a different paper of this conference ).
The main goal of this paper is to present the optical performance and the qualification test performed on prototype cold-
slumped glass mirrors. The following chapters describe the general design consideration, the mirror fabrication, the
numerical finite element analysis, and the environmental qualification together with the angular resolution and the
2. SEGMENTED MIRROR FABRICATION VIA COLD SLUMPING
The cold slumping technique makes use of the vacuum suction to mechanically bend the reflecting membrane of a
composite mirror. The possibility to use glass sheets in sandwich structures was first investigated for Solar concentrators
application . If the radius of curvature of the optics is high and the thickness of the glass sheet is sufficiently low,
the sheet can be conformed to the shape of the master by means of vacuum action. The mirror elements here proposed
for Cherenkov Telescope application have a sandwich like structure where the reflecting and backing glass sheets are
bonded to both sides of an aluminum honeycomb core. A schematic illustrating the construction of the sandwich
structural mirror is illustrated in Fig. 1. The fabrication process is composed by the following steps:
1. Spherical curvature of the surface of an aluminum mould is obtained by diamond milling. Diamond milling is
used in order to achieve the best shape accuracy possible without the need for further polishing (see also Fig. 2 on
2. the shape of the mould is replicated by the reflecting glass sheet via the cold slumping process. A backing glass
sheet is assembled with an interposed aluminum honeycomb core element giving the proper rigidity;
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7018 70180V-2
Fig. 1. Sketch of the cold-slumping mirror manufacturing process
3. the connection of the parts is achieved through epoxy resin structural adhesive bonding with curing under
elevated temperature while maintaining the vacuum suction;
4. the glass sheets adopted are floating glass available on the market with a very good roughness and do not require
any polishing step. The process ensures on the reflecting glass sheet the required shape accuracy after separation
from the master and t3he preservation of the starting surface roughness of the glass sheets;
5. the reflecting coating is deposited after the manufacturing of the sandwich structure by means of physical vapor
deposition in a dedicated high vacuum chamber. The reflecting glass sheet is coated in order to provide a high
reflectivity at wavelengths in the range from 300 to 600 nm. Aluminum coating provides the best reflectivity at
these wavelengths, especially in the range of short wavelengths (300 to 450 nm) that contains most intensity of
the Cherenkov light. To avoid oxidation of the aluminum layer, a protective coating of quartz is also applied.
6. Sealing of the sandwich structure borders is assured by a silicon based sealant. The edges of the sandwich have an
external plastic PVC rim. This solution assures higher rigidity and mechanical protection of the mirror corners.
All the materials within process are off-the-shelf and the higher cost is one time expenditure relevant to the
manufacturing of the mould. Moreover the mould is not subjected to significant degradation during the process. In the
following Fig. 2 the pictures of the master and of one prototype mirror are shown.
Fig. 2. Left: mould shaped by means of diamond milling; right: prototype mirror replicated via cold slumping.
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7018 70180V-3
3. SEGMENTED MIRROR FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS
The shape accuracy and the strength analysis of the glass sandwich structure have been performed under different load
cases with the following boundary condition:
Sandiwch structure dimension 985 mm x 985 mm;
Radius of curvature of the spherical shape 34 m;
Sandwich structure is composed of the following layers:
reflecting sheet 1.7 mm thick (floating glass)
bonding 0.2 mm thick (epoxy resin)
aluminum honeycomb 20 mm thick
bonding 0.2 mm thick (epoxy resin)
backing sheet 1.7 mm thick (floating glass)
3 rigid supports with translations locked and rotations free.
The three supports are assumed to be at a radius equal to 2/3 of the mirror structure side. Rigid cross beams are
implemented in correspondence of the supports in order to reproduce stiffness of inserts (diameter 80 mm). The circular
shape is recommended for the inserts in order to limit concentrated stress loads in facings. Finite Element Model
sandwich structure mass is 9.4 kg.
Load cases considered in the finite element analysis are defined in the following Table 1. The operational temperature
range is between 0°C and 30°C, whereas the survival condition is between -20°C and 60°C. The reference temperature
Table 1. Load cases for the Finite Element Analysis
Load case Description Notes
LC1a Normal gravity 1g along Z
LC1b Lateral gravity 1g along X
LC2a Operational hot case (uniform temp. 30°C) Uniform temp. change +10°C
LC2b Operational cold case (uniform temp. 0°C) Uniform temp. change -20°C
LC2c Survival hot case (uniform temp. 60°C) Uniform temp. change +40°C
LC3a Temperature gradient 1°C
Reflecting skin 20.5°C
Backing skin 19.5°C
The results of the structural analysis in terms of shape accuracy under the different load cases are summarized in the
following Table 2. Note that PTV and RMS errors are calculated w.r.t. unreformed shape and considering vertical
displacements. Best fit is performed only w.r.t. piston effect.
The stresses have been calculated as equivalent von Mises stresses. Adhesive shear stress is calculated from shear stress
in core, by scaling it according to reduced section area. The results of the stress analysis are summarized in the
following Table 3.
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7018 70180V-4
Table 2. Shape accuracy under the different load cases
RMS error w/o
Piston [µ µm]
LC1a Normal gravity 15.9 5.0 -3.9 3.1 0.033
LC1b Lateral gravity 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.001
LC2a Hot case (30°C) 2.4 0.9 -0.6 0.6 0.005
LC2b Cold case (0°C) 4.8 1.8 -1.2 1.2 0.011
LC3a Gradient 1°C 8.5 2.0 -0.6 1.9 0.024
Table 3. Stress analysis under the different load cases
Stress [MPa] Margin of safety (2)
Core shear Core shear
Von Mises (1)
W (XZ) L (YZ)
W (XZ) L (YZ)
LC1a 0.59 (0.58) 0.20 0.013 0.015 21.6 96.4 71.3 106
LC1b 0.13 (0.13) 0.00 0.000 0.000 102 8645 4699 16066
LC2b 6.2 (5.6) 0.07 0.006 0.003 1.16 287 156 535
LC2c 12.3 (11.2) 0.13 0.012 0.006 0.08 73.5 77.3 266.8
LC3a 0.08 (0.08) 0.00 0.000 0.000 166 6834 4699 8032
20 29 1.41 2.41 - - - -
Notes: 1) First principal stress is also shown (in brackets)
2) Safety factor of 1.5 included in margins of safety
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7018 70180V-5
-20 -15 -10
5 10 15 20
4. QUALIFICATION TEST RESULTS
In this session the activities performed for the environmental qualification of the cold-slumped mirrors for Cherenkov
Telescopes are presented together with their performance in terms of angular resolution and reflectivity. Some
qualification tests have been performed at the level of samples (smaller with respect to the final dimension but fully
representative of the manufacturing process) and some other test have been performed on 1 squared meter prototype. In
some cases the tests have been performed both on the samples and on the prototype mirrors. In the Table 4 the list of the
qualification test is reported with the indication whether the test has been performed on small scale samples or on real
final dimension prototypes.
Table 4. Summary of the qualification tests with the indication (T) whether the test has been performed on small
samples or on real dimension prototypes
Qualification Test (Type-Method) Test on Samples Test on Prototypes
1 Angular Resolution T T
3 Reflectivity T T
2 Angular Resolution after Thermal Cycling (-20°C / +60°C) T
4 Reflectivity (before and after Weathering Test) T
5 Reflectivity (before and after Salt Fog Test ) T
6 Coating Adhesion test T T
7 Sealing Test T
Before starting the qualification tests, the angular resolution and the reflectivity of the prototypes mirror have been
characterized with two different experimental set-ups. For the Point Spread Function (PSF) measurement, the mirror
was placed at a distance of ~34 m (the assumed radius of curvature of the mirror) in respect to a monochromatic red
diode. The diode is simulating a point-like light source. A white sheet of paper was placed into a paper box and located
close to the diode, at the same distance to the mirror. The distance from the mirror to the diode and reflecting plane was
adjusted until the reflected spot size had its minimum. The reflected spot was imaged with a 16bit CCD camera.
Fig. 3. Point Spread Function (PSF) of a cold-slumped glass mirror at distance of ~34m. The circle containing 80% of
the light has a radius of ~7.4 mm that corresponds to angular radius of ~0.22 mrad (MPI Munich credits).
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7018 70180V-6
The spot diagram of a representative cold-slumped mirror is reported in Fig. 3, where the circle containing 80% of the
light has a radius of ~7.4 mm that corresponds to an angular radius of ~0.22 mrad.
The focal length of the cold-slumped mirrors is normally slightly shorter than the focal length of the mould from which
they are replicated. This aspect of the process, although not expected, is very repeatable and hence the focal length of
the mould can be designed in order to take it into account. An example of the spread in focal length of the cold-slumped
mirrors can be found in a separate paper talking about the production of the 100 mirrors for MAGIC II telescope .
For the measurement of the mirror reflectivity the portable IRIS 908RS2 instrument was used. This instrument allows to
measure two components of the reflectivity, the direct and the diffuse reflected component, on several position on the
mirror reflecting surface. An image of the portable device for the reflectivity measurement is reported in Fig. 4 (on the
right). The device is operating at four different wavelengths. The four laser diodes have the following characteristics:
B: λ = 470 nm (FWHM = 30 nm)
G: λ = 530 nm (FWHM = 40 nm)
R: λ = 650 nm (FWHM = 30 nm)
IR: λ = 880 nm (FWHM = 80 nm)
The laser diodes focus their beam of light at an inclination angle of 45° in respect to the sample surface. Four detectors
are mounted at 0°, +2°, -15° and -45°. The later three are used to determine the scattering component of the reflected
light. The maximal relative error of the instrument and therefore the measurement accuracy is 0.5%. The repetitiveness
of the reflectivity measurement is 0.1% for 20 measurements. The measured area is 10mm in diameter.
Fig. 4 (on the left side) shows the measurement of the mirror reflectivity performed on a representative 1 squared meter
prototype glass mirror. The reflectivity is well above 80% and peaks in the blue region (where the Cherenkov light
emission is higher). The scattering amount of the cold-slumped mirror is typically lesser than 0.1%.
660640 620 600580 560540520 500 480 460
W avelength (nm )
Fig. 4. Reflectivity measurement at different wavelength of a typical prototype cold-slumped mirror
Angular Resolution After Thermal Cycling
The measurements of the PSF of the prototype mirrors and the radius of curvature measurements have been performed
before and after 5 thermal cycles. These tests aimed at the verification of the maintenance of the optical performance of
the mirror in the survival condition. Each thermal cycle has been performed passing quickly from 20°C to -20°C
(plateau of 12 hour) and then from -20°C to 60°C (plateau of 4 hours).
The temperature profile is reported below in Fig. 5. After each cycle the radius of curvature and the angular resolution
(PSF) have been measured showing that no changes occurred with respect to the starting parameter before thermal
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7018 70180V-7
Wssthsrlng Tsut . Tsn,psrsturs Protlis
I III III I! I
Weathering Test - Relative Humidity Profile
- - - -
46- - — - -I
o Ii 12 13 14
I 22 22 24
22 20 181614121086420
Fig. 5. Temperature curve of the thermal cycles performed on the prototype mirrors
Reflectivity Before and After Weathering Test
The reflectivity of 3 samples with dimension 200 mm x 200 mm have been measured before and after accelerated aging
test by means of IRIS 908RS2 portable instrument. The accelerated aging test (or weathering test) lasted 42 days with
continuous variation of temperature profile, relative humidity profile and ultraviolet radiation power (UVA). The
temperature ad humidity profiles are plotted in Fig. 6. The UVA power irradiating the samples had been switched during
the test between the following values:
2.2 mW/cm2 with the lightening of 5 lamps at distance of 65 cm;
4.4 mW/cm2 with the lightening of 10 lamps at distance of 65 cm.
Fig. 6. Temperature profile (left) and relative humidity profile (right) during weathering test on samples
The reflectivity measurements are reported in the following Table 5. As it can be seen from the table the reflectivity of
the mirrors is not significantly affect by the weathering conditions.
Table 5. The reflectivity of 3 samples measured before and after accelerated aging test
470 nm 88.73 % 88.09 % 88.45 % 87.97 % 88.63 % 87.86 %
530 nm 84.42 % 83.66 % 84.07 % 83.56 % 84.25 % 83.84 %
650 nm 80.50 % 80.27 % 80.49 % 80.18 % 80.67 % 80.3 %
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7018 70180V-8
Reflectivity Before and After Salt Fog Test
In order to assess the corrosion resistance of the cold-slumped mirror coating, a Salt fog test have been performed on
some representative samples. Salt fog test produces an accelerated corrosive attack in order to predict the coating
suitability in use as a protective finish on corrosive environments. The Salt fog test has been performed with an
atomized fog of water having a high salt content (higher than 5%) for the duration of 24 hours. Even if there is no clear
correlation between 24 hours of exposure with a 5% solution to a long period of exposure in an actual corrosive
atmosphere, the test has been performed without showing signs of corrosion on the samples. Also the reflectivity of the
coating has not been affected by the Salt fog test as measured with the IRIS 908RS2 portable instrument. In Fig. 7 the
experimental set-up is depicted showing the samples installed in the chamber (on the left) also during the execution of
the test (on the right).
Fig. 7. Samples installed in the chamber for Salt Fog Test (left) and during the execution of the Salt Fog Test (right)
Coating Adhesion Test
The adhesion of the coating has been checked by a peel-off test performed both on samples and on prototype mirror.
The processes of aluminization and protective quartz layer deposition are performed under high vacuum (~10-6 mbar) in
a dedicated chamber via physical vapor deposition; the reflecting surface is cleaned through Ion etching before the
Pressure sensitive tape has been applied and removed over different areas in the coating. The areas have been
subsequently inspected for removal of coating from the substrate giving no indication of detachments. Coating adhesion
tests have been performed also after Weathering and Salt Fog Test performed on representative samples without giving
indication of detachment of the coating
Sealing Tightness Test
For pressure exchange between sandwich mirror interior and external environment, required by the sealing tightness
test, a venting hole has been provided on one side of some prototype mirrors. Sealing tightness of prototype mirror has
been tested by means of a vacuum pump. The internal pressure has been reduced from ambient to 0.2 bar and the
vacuum circuit has been therefore closed. No leakage has been detected within 15 minutes.
As additional test, some mirror prototypes have been dipped completely into water for the duration of 24 hours. The
weight of the mirrors before and after the test was exactly the same giving indication that no penetration of water inside
the sandwich structure occurred.
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7018 70180V-9
Cost-effective design of the IACT segmented mirrors and its production rate represent key ingredient for the success of
the next generation instrument With cold slumping technique it is possible to manufacture lightweight (9.5 kg/m2)
mirrors in quite short time (e.g. 5 mirrors per day if 5 masters are available), with optical quality within the requirements
of Cherenkov Telescopes and by using materials available off-the-shelf. Although the development study has been
performed on spherical shape mirrors, also parabolic profiles are possible once a master with the right shape is available.
A number of environmental test have been successfully performed and the finite element analysis does not give
indication of criticalities within Cherenkov Telescope boundary conditions. More than 100 mirrors have been produced
with the cold slumping technique for MAGIC II telescope with commissioning foreseen for the next 19th September.
The authors thank HESS and MAGIC collaborations for supporting the qualification activities. MPI Munich is
acknowledged for the optical measurements performed on some prototype mirrors. Special thanks go to Riccardo
Ghislanzoni (MLT) for the 3D model and to Josef Eder for the Finite Element Analysis. The Diamond Milling of the
aluminum mould has been performed by LT Ultra Company (Aftholderberg, Germany). The Weathering tests have been
performed by TUV Italy. The aluminum and quartz coatings have been performed by ZAOT Company (Vittuone, Italy).
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