Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Astronomers poised to apply novel way to look for comets beyond Neptune

08.01.2003


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory astronomers are major partners in a scientific collaboration that will conduct an extremely novel search for small, comet-like bodies in the outer solar system using four half-meter telescopes. The work was described today at the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society.


Rather than look for the light reflected directly by these objects (as is customary astronomy practice), this project will search for those very rare moments when one of these objects passes between the telescopes and a nearby background star. This brief "eclipse" lasts less than a second, but will allow the scientists to study objects that are much too faint to be seen in reflected sunlight, even with the largest telescopes.

This work was presented today by Sun-Kung King, on behalf of the TAOS Project (TAOS: Taiwanese-American Occultation Survey) and by Matthew Lehner of the University of Pennsylvania. King is an astronomer from the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Academia Sinica in Taiwan. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have played a key role in the design and building of the telescopes and are members of TAOS.

The region probed by TAOS is known as the Kuiper Belt, and sometimes as the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt, after the two scientists who independently proposed its existence more than 50 years ago. There were only two objects (Pluto and its moon Charon) known in this region until the 1990s, when a flood of exciting discoveries of new bodies was started by David Jewitt (at the University of Hawaii) and Jane Luu (then at UC Berkeley). Despite hundreds of discoveries later, much more remains unknown.



All theories of this region predict that there are many more small objects than large objects. Conventional telescope searches principally find objects that are larger in diameter than about 100 kilometers. An ambitious program with the Hubble Space Telescope may find objects as small as 10 kilometers in size. The scientists in TAOS believe they will be able to extend this lower limit to about 3 kilometers. It is believed there are billions of objects this small in the outer solar system.

"The TAOS survey will provide data on remnants of our early solar system and early planet formation," said Kem Cook, a TAOS astronomer who works at Livermore’s Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics. "It will provide us insight into how the solar system evolved. We’ll be looking at the smallest objects than anyone else has seen."

Current observations and theories can say very little about regions many times farther from the sun than Neptune. TAOS is unique among astronomical surveys in its ability to probe these great distances. TAOS is able to do this because it does not rely on reflected sunlight. These small objects are thought to be directly related to the new comets that wander into the planetary system. Composed of dust and ice, they begin to evaporate when they come closer to the sun, producing the spectacular and beautiful tails that astronomers believe are the oldest objects in the solar system, which makes them especially interesting.

"The small objects we will detect are much too faint to be seen directly, even by the largest telescopes in the world," King said. "We will find them silhouetted against the background stars, which will make it possible for us to detect them."

TAOS will consist of four telescopes (only half a meter in diameter), which will be used to monitor up to 2,000 stars. The telescopes will operate in the central highlands of Taiwan.

The optical performance of the TAOS telescopes proved difficult to achieve in a compact design.

"We depended on LLNL precision engineering, optical design and fabrication capabilities to build these telescopes," Cook said. "Without that expertise we would not have been able to build the TAOS telescopes."

The TAOS collaboration is made up of: King, A. Wang, C.Y. Wen, S.Y. Wang, and T. Lee from the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taiwan; C. Alcock, R. Dave, J. Giammarco and Lehner from the University of Pennsylvania; Cook, S. Marshall and R. Porrata from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; W.P. Chen and Z.W. Zhang from the National Central University in Taiwan; Y.I. Byun from Yonsei University in South Korea; J. Lissauer from NASA’s Ames Research Center; and I. De Pater, C. Liang and J. Rice from UC Berkeley.

TAOS is funded by the Academia Sinica and the National Central University, which receive support from the Ministry of Education and the National Science Council in Taiwan; by the Korean Research Foundation in South Korea; and by NASA at the University of Pennsylvania and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Anne Stark | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.llnl.gov/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'
26.05.2017 | University of Leicester

nachricht Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology

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: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>