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 Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

nachricht Magnetic moment of a single antiproton determined with greatest precision ever
19.01.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>