Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Astronomers slice and dice galaxies

04.10.2002


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.


One of the most exciting new features of UIST is its ’image slicer’ or Integral Field Unit (IFU). The IFU ’slices’ the light from an astronomical target into thin sections. Each slice is then spread out to make a spectrum, rather like the rainbows produced when light passes through a prism of glass. Astronomers can use these spectra to investigate the interactions between stars, cosmic dust and gas in complex objects like galaxies.

The image slicer was tested in UIST’s first night on UKIRT. The galaxy NGC1068, 47 million light years from Earth, was chosen for the observations. This galaxy is known to have an active nucleus, or centre, which is a perfect target for the image slicer. The IFU creates an infrared ’data cube’ from the galaxy’s nucleus in a single observation. This can be sliced in one direction to show the appearance of the nucleus at a single infrared wavelength, or at right angles to produce spectra across the entire nucleus.

The UIST team have spent five weeks commissioning and installing the instrument on UKIRT. The telescope is situated atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is one of the best sites in the world for astronomy. This follows five years of construction at the ATC in Edinburgh, where the team overcame many technological challenges.

Dr Ramsay Howat explained "At infrared wavelengths, the ambient heat of the instrument itself creates unwanted background light. To avoid this, the entire 750kg instrument is cooled inside a cryostat to about -200C, just 70 degrees above absolute zero. The dinner plate sized wheels that allow different optical components to be selected have to be rotated to within 1/250 of a degree, and the optical pathways must stay precisely aligned even as the instrument shrinks in the extreme cold."

At the heart of UIST is an extremely sensitive infrared detector with a million pixels - 16 times more than the previous spectrometer ’CGS4’. UIST combines and improves upon the capabilities of the instruments previously on the telescope.

Dr Andy Adamson, Director of UKIRT, is extremely excited about the future with UIST. "Combining the power of UIST imaging and spectroscopy with the telescope’s excellent image quality will revolutionise observations at UKIRT. We’ll be able to image objects of interest and analyse them spectrally, all with the same instrument."

Douglas Pierce-Price | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

nachricht Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Speed data for the brain’s navigation system

06.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization

06.12.2016 | Life Sciences

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>