Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Lobster telescope has an eye for X-rays

04.04.2006


UK astronomers have been at the forefront of designing a revolutionary new X-ray telescope that is based on the eyes of a lobster. By replicating the crustacean’s ability to observe objects all around it without turning its head, scientists are confident that the Lobster instrument will enable a major breakthrough in X-ray astronomy.



The sky viewed at X-ray wavelengths is a violent and unpredictable place. Many sources brighten without warning, then vanish just as suddenly. Others vary cyclically over a period that can range from minutes to years.

The ideal X-ray telescope, therefore, would observe “all the sky, all of the time” – an ideal which might seem unattainable, but which is approached by the Lobster concept, to be described by Dr. Nigel Bannister (University of Leicester) at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting, University of Leicester, on 4 April.


“The great advantage of the Lobster design is an almost unlimited field of view,” said Dr. Bannister. “This makes it ideal for use as an all-sky X-ray monitor.”

In the 1970s, lobsters and some other crustacea were found to view the world through remarkable eyes which focus light over a very wide field of view by means of reflection, rather than by refraction or bending of light, as in the human eye.

The lobster eye – essentially an array of tube-like channels with a square cross-section – was proposed as the basis of an X-ray “all-sky monitor” by Roger Angel of the University of Arizona in 1977. However, it has taken almost 30 years – and nearly 15 years from the first successful X-ray measurements with such structures in 1992 - to perfect the optic technology.

Only now is it possible to consider the space missions described by Nigel Bannister as practical propositions, with the Lobster All-Sky X-ray Monitor successfully completing a detailed European Space Agency (ESA) Phase-A study in 2005.

“The studies of Lobster conducted with ESA since 2001 suggest that the instrument will have an impact on almost every area of astrophysics,” said Professor George Fraser, Director of the University of Leicester Space Research Centre and leader of the international team which has been studying Lobster.

“Originally, these studies concentrated on mounting the Lobster telescope modules on the International Space Station (ISS), but more recently we’ve been looking at a free-flying satellite platform provided by the Russians.”

Fraser points out that it has not been easy as a British scientist leading a study for an ISS attached payload, since the UK does not contribute to the ISS programme. There has also been some scepticism regarding a collaboration with Russia since the failure of the Russian Spectrum X - Gamma project in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Nevertheless, I am confident that the Lobster concept will eventually make its impact on astrophysics,” he said.

“The scientific impact of Lobster will span all of astronomy - from studies of the X-ray emission of comets to stars and quasars, from regular X-ray binaries to the catastrophic events of supernovæ and the enigmatic gamma-ray bursts.

“Through frequent re-observation of each point in the sky during the lifetime of the mission, Lobster offers the opportunity to perform deep, sensitive surveys of both galactic and extra-galactic sources.

“This will lead to the collation of a “Lobster All-Sky Catalogue” containing hundreds of thousands of sources, including a significant population of objects for which photometry on approximately 1 day timescales will be available.

“Such a rich catalogue of sources offers an unprecedented opportunity to study the large-scale distribution of matter in the Universe, probing possible links between supercluster filamentary structures and the purported existence of dark matter in the cosmos.”

Professor George Fraser | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nam2006.le.ac.uk/index.shtml

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor
24.04.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)

nachricht New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute 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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>