Rather than detecting visible light, SCUBA-2 will detect submillimetre radiation, which is sensitive to the heat emitted by extremely cold dust in the Universe. This material is associated with the mysterious earliest phases of the formation of galaxies, stars and planets, hitherto largely undetectable. Typically the dust is at temperatures of about -200 Celsius and so detecting its extremely weak emissions presents a huge technological challenge.
Dr Wayne Holland, the project leader at the UK ATC said "Submillimetre astronomy is a relatively new science and one where the UK has led the world over the past two decades. Our latest camera is the most powerful yet: SCUBA-2 on the JCMT should detect the equivalent of the heat from a candle on the surface of the Moon."
In order to detect such low levels of heat, the detectors inside the camera must be as sensitive as possible. To achieve this they must be cooled to within a tenth of a degree above absolute zero (or about -273 Celsius). This is a huge technical challenge and to prevent the detectors being swamped by heat from the camera itself, the internal optics of the camera must also be cooled. As a result, the complete camera is the size of a family car and weighs about 4 tons.
The superconducting detectors are the most sensitive thermal detectors ever built. Their design and construction was the result of a highly successful collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, and the Scottish Microelectronics Centre of the University of Edinburgh.
Professor Ian Robson, Director of the UK ATC, said "SCUBA-2 is an incredible achievement; it is almost certainly one of the most complex projects that UK astronomers have ever attempted but it is also a project that is expected to produce amazing results. After seven years of construction in Edinburgh, the world's most powerful submillimetre camera by a huge margin is poised to open up a new frontier in astronomical research."
The cold Universe
One of the most exciting discoveries in astronomy over the past decade was made by SCUBA, the predecessor to SCUBA-2. Astronomers were surprised to detect a population of distant galaxies completely enshrouded in dust that had never been seen before. These galaxies are usually invisible to telescopes that detect visible light and can only be seen using submillimetre telescopes. They are known as primeval galaxies because they represent some of the earliest structures observable in the universe. Over it’s 8-year lifetime SCUBA was able to produce images of only a hundred or so of these galaxies with each one taking several nights of valuable telescope time. In contrast SCUBA-2 is expected to be able to pinpoint and image many hundreds of these in a single night.
Professor John Peacock, head of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, is excited about the prospect of using the new camera, "Earlier submillimetre cameras such as SCUBA have taught us that galaxies like the Milky May formed most of their stars in an early dust-rich episode that we can't study with visible light. SCUBA-2 will let us find thousands of galaxies in the earliest act of assembly, and study them in detail. It will be like moving from black-and-white film to 10-megapixel digital cameras. Astronomers can't wait for this wonderful machine to start producing results."
Professor Gary Davis, Director of the JCMT, said "We at the telescope are anxiously awaiting the arrival of this new camera. I expect it to revolutionise submillimetre astronomy, just as its predecessor SCUBA did. The JCMT's user community in the UK, Canada and the Netherlands has designed a joint, comprehensive Legacy Survey based on the enormous promise of this instrument, and we can't wait to get started."
Signposts to planetary systems
Closer to home SCUBA-2 will survey giant molecular clouds, where stars are currently being born and, intriguingly, it will search for the imprints of planetary systems on the cold dusty debris found around many nearby stars. This will entail observing around 500 stars and searching for the tell-tale signs that that planetary systems exist. "One of the most exciting things SCUBA-2 will do is to probe regions similar in size to our own Solar System around nearby stars", Dr Holland says. "This will tell us if there are other such systems out there and whether our Solar System is unique".
Atlas of the sky
For astronomical instruments pixel count is all important, particularly if you want to survey large areas of sky. Containing over 10,000 pixels SCUBA-2 will push back the boundaries of technology much further than has ever been done before. Professor Robson says "The closest rival camera has only a few hundred pixels. SCUBA-2 will survey the sky 1000 times faster than any other instrument out there, with the exciting prospect of producing the first detailed map of the sky - a true atlas of the cold universe".
SCUBA-2 is a multi-million pound instrument. It has taken seven years to build and has been the result of a hugely successful collaboration between the UK ATC, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (Boulder, US), the University of Edinburgh, Cardiff University, the Joint Astronomy Centre, Hawaii, and a consortium of Canadian universities, including the Universities of Waterloo and British Columbia.
SCUBA-2 will arrive in Hawaii in mid-March and will begin initial science operations in the summer.
Eleanor Gilchrist | EurekAlert!
APEX takes a glimpse into the heart of darkness
25.05.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie
First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR
24.05.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences