Using new charge coupled device (CCD) instrumentation, Case Western Reserve University astronomers can now view the night sky wider and deeper than before.
While the vast reaches of intergalactic space may appear dark and empty, a new camera installed on the university's Burrell Schmidt telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Ariz., will bring into clear view the faint sea of orphan stars strewn throughout the nearby Virgo cluster of galaxies.
The design and installation of the new camera system was led by Case Western Reserve astronomer Paul Harding, who also serves as the observatory manager. A CCD -- a larger and more sensitive version of the imaging technology found in everyday digital cameras -- will enable the astronomers to determine the ages of these stars and unravel the secrets of their origins.
This faint orphan starlight, dubbed "intracluster light," is formed when galaxies collide with one another inside titanic clusters of galaxies. During these collisions, stars are ripped away from their parent galaxies and strewn throughout the cluster by the gravitational forces at work.
Originally discovered in the Virgo cluster three years ago by Case astronomer Chris Mihos and his collaborators, this intracluster light holds the key to understanding how galaxy clusters form and evolve.
The primary reason for upgrading the telescope's camera is to determine the color of these stars, according to Mihos and Harding. "Typically younger stars are bluer," Harding says, "so if we can measure the color of the intracluster light, we can learn about its age."
Younger ages for the stars would suggest that the Virgo cluster formed relatively recently, over the past few billion years. But because the stars are very faint in the blue, to measure the stellar colors the existing camera needed to be upgraded to be image a wider portion of the sky with even greater sensitivity.
The telescope's upgraded camera images an area of the sky 1.5 degrees on a side -- twice as big as the old camera, and enough to fit nine full moons in the field of view. "By imaging twice as much sky, we can collect twice as much light at once," Mihos says, "and that lets us detect this faint starlight even in the blue where it is extremely faint."
Harding likens the new CCD to a camera that has been retrofitted to increase its film size from 35 mm to a large format film size of several inches. "It's the same camera but bigger film," Harding explained. The CCD itself, a thin wafer of silicon measuring three inches on a side, was fabricated by the Imaging Technology Laboratory at the University of Arizona and cost approximately $100,000.
Susan Griffith | EurekAlert!
Quantum memory with record-breaking capacity based on laser-cooled atoms
18.12.2017 | Faculty of Physics University of Warsaw
Error-free into the Quantum Computer Age
18.12.2017 | Universität Innsbruck
A study carried out by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Physical Review X shows that ion-trap technologies available today are suitable for building large-scale quantum computers. The scientists introduce trapped-ion quantum error correction protocols that detect and correct processing errors.
In order to reach their full potential, today’s quantum computer prototypes have to meet specific criteria: First, they have to be made bigger, which means...
Since 2016, German and Spanish researchers, among them scientists from the University of Göttingen, have been hunting for exoplanets with the “Carmenes”...
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
18.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2017 | Studies and Analyses
18.12.2017 | Medical Engineering