What's Hiding Under the Football Stadium at UArizona

Buried under the feet of the Arizona Wildcats football players and coaches, far beneath the marching band and cheerleaders, the University of Arizona hides a secret lab.

Okay, so it's an open secret and one all Arizonans can all be proud of.

The secret mirror lab under the University of Arizona Football Statdium.
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Did you know that under the football stadium at the University of Arizona, there is a laboratory where giant mirrors are made for some of the world's most powerful telescopes?

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The Richard F Caris Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona

The Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab is where science and engineering meet to create wonders of optical technology. These mirrors are used in telescopes around the world - and in space.

The mirrors made at the lab are far beyond ordinary. They create giant optics up to 27 feet in diameter and have a honeycomb structure on the inside.

The mirror on the left is the second mirror of two mirrors for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) that is being built on Mt. Graham. They are almost the same size as the new mirrors being spun for the Giant Magellan Telescope that is being built at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab. // Photo by Gary Williams/Getty Images
The mirror on the left is the second mirror of two mirrors for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). // Photo by Gary Williams/Getty Images
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The mirrors are made of a special type of glass meant to withstand extreme temperatures and pressures, and they're shaped into a precise parabolic curve. This curve allows them to focus light from distant stars and galaxies.

Making the Mirrors

The lab uses a unique process to make these world-famous mirrors. The glass is first melted and then poured into a mold that spins in a custom-designed oven.

The secret mirror lab under the University of Arizona Football Statdium.
What's hiding under the feet of these band members marching at the University of Arizona in Tucson? // Val Davidson/TSM
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The mirror is then cooled and polished by a robotic arm that can correct any imperfections on the surface. Finally, the mirror is tested and coated with a thin layer of reflective material.

Seeing Deep into Space: Made in Arizona

The mirrors made in UArizona's underground lab are used for some of the most ambitious astronomical projects in the world. You'll find them in the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

The secret mirror lab under the University of Arizona Football Statdium.
Val Davidson/TSM
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With these telescopes, astronomers worldwide can explore the mysteries of the universe. Imagine an astronomer learning about dark matter, dark energy, black holes, and the origin of life - and owe it all to the lab under the stadium at the University of Arizona.

The secret mirror lab under the University of Arizona Football Statdium.
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