New views of star birth and the heart of a spiral galaxy have been seen by a state-of-the-art astronomical instrument on its first night. The new UKIRT Imaging Spectrometer (UIST) has a revolutionary ability to slice any object in the sky into sections, producing a three dimensional view of the conditions throughout entire galaxies in a single observation. UIST has just been installed on the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii.
UIST infrared image of the Omega Nebula, a site of star formation 5000 light years from Earth
Image: Joint Astronomy Centre
Project scientist Suzanne Ramsay Howat from the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) in Edinburgh said "UIST will give astronomers using UKIRT a unique way of viewing the Universe, keeping this telescope at the cutting-edge of science".
The instrument saw its First Light on the night of 24th September, when it was trained on the Omega Nebula. This nebula, also called Messier 17, is a gas cloud where new stars are forming. Located 5000 light years from Earth, M17 is a near neighbor and can be studied in exquisite detail with an instrument such as UIST. The intense ultraviolet radiation from young, hot stars blasts the atoms in clouds of interstellar gas, making them glow brightly as seen in the bottom right of the UIST image.
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