Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Akari delivers its first images

22.05.2006


AKARI, the new Japanese infrared sky surveyor mission in which ESA is participating, saw ‘first light’ on 13 April 2006 (UT) and delivered its first images of the cosmos. The images were taken towards the end of a successful checkout of the spacecraft in orbit.


These two images of the reflection nebula IC4954 were taken by the two instruments on board Akari - the Far-Infrared Surveyor (FIS) – on the left - and the near- and mid-Infrared Camera (IRC) – on the right. The observed wavelengths are 90 and 9 microns, respectively. The IC4954 region is situated at a distance of about 6000 light years from us and extends more than 10 light years across. In these first infrared images of this area it is possible to see individual stars that have recently been born. They are embedded in gas and dust and could not be seen in visible light. Is it also possible to see the gas clouds from which these stars are made.


These infrared images of the galaxy M81 were taken by the near- and mid-Infrared Camera (IRC) on board Akari. The observed wavelengths are 3, 4, 7, 11, 15, and 24 microns, respectively. M81 is a spiral galaxy located at a distance of about 12 million light years from us. The images at 3 and 4 microns show the distribution of stars in the inner part of the galaxy without any obscuration from intervening dust clouds. At 7 and 11 microns it is possible to see the radiation from organic materials in the interstellar gas of the galaxy. The distribution of the dust heated by young hot stars is exhibited in the images at 15 and 24 micron, showing that the star forming regions sit along the spiral arms of the galaxy. Credits: JAXA



The mission, formerly known as ASTRO-F, was launched on 21 February 2006 (UT) from the Uchinoura Space Centre in Japan. Two weeks after launch the satellite reached its final destination in space – a polar orbit around Earth located at an altitude of approximately 700 kilometres.

On 13 April, during the second month of the system checkout and verification of the overall satellite performance, the AKARI telescope’s aperture lid was opened and the on-board two instruments commenced their operation. These instruments - the Far Infrared Surveyor (FIS) and the near-mid-infrared camera (IRC) - make possible an all-sky survey in six infrared wavebands. The first beautiful images from the mission have confirmed the excellent performance of the scientific equipment beyond any doubt.


AKARI’s two instruments were pointed toward the reflection nebula IC4954, a region situated about 6000 light years away, and extending more than 10 light years across space. Reflection nebulae are clouds of dust which reflect the light of nearby stars. In these infrared images of IC4954 ­ a region of intense star formation active for several million years – it is possible to pick out individual stars that have only recently been born. They are embedded in gas and dust and could not be seen in visible light. It is also possible to see the gas clouds from which these stars were actually created.

"These beautiful views already show how, thanks to the better sensitivity and improved spatial resolution of AKARI, we will be able to discover and study fainter sources and more distant objects which escaped detection by the previous infrared sky-surveyor, IRAS, twenty years ago," says Pedro García-Lario, responsible for ‘pointing reconstruction’ - a vital part of the AKARI data processing - at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC), Spain. "With the help of the new infrared maps of the whole sky provided by AKARI we will be able to resolve for the first time heavily obscured sources in crowded stellar fields like the centre of our Galaxy," he continued.

With its near-mid-infrared camera, AKARI also imaged the galaxy M81 at six different wavelengths. M81 is a spiral galaxy located about 12 million light years away. The images taken at 3 and 4 microns show the distribution of stars in the inner part of the galaxy, without any obscuration from the intervening dust clouds. At 7 and 11 microns the images show the radiation from organic materials (carbon-bearing molecules) in the interstellar gas of the galaxy. The distribution of the dust heated by young hot stars is shown in the images at 15 and 24 microns, showing that the star forming regions sit along the spiral arms of the galaxy.

"It’s a feeling of tremendous accomplishment for all of us involved in the AKARI project to finally see the fruits of the long years of labour in these amazing new infrared images of our Universe,” said Chris Pearson, ESA astronomer located at ISAS and involved with AKARI since 1997, “We are now eagerly waiting for the next ‘infrared revelation’ about the origin and evolution of stars, galaxies and planetary systems."

Having concluded all in-orbit checks, AKARI is now entering the first mission phase. This will last about six months and is aimed at performing a complete survey of the entire infrared sky. This part of the mission will then be followed by a phase during which thousands of selected astronomical targets will be observed in detail. During this second phase, as well as in the following third phase in which only the infrared camera will be at work, European astronomers will have access to ten percent of the overall pointed observation opportunity.

“The user support team at ESAC are enthusiastic about the first images. They show that we can expect a highly satisfactory return for the European observing programme," said Alberto Salama, ESA Project Scientist for AKARI. “Furthermore, the new data will be of enormous value to plan follow-up observations of the most interesting celestial objects with ESA’s future infrared observatory, Herschel,” he concluded.

Martin Kessler | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEM8NF9ATME_index_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Transportable laser
23.01.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht New for three types of extreme-energy space particles: Theory shows unified origin
23.01.2018 | 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: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rutgers scientists discover 'Legos of life'

23.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems

23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Transportable laser

23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>