Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Iowa State astrophysicists provide the eyes for new gamma ray telescope system

There's a "First Light Fiesta" in the works at Mt. Hopkins near Amado, Ariz. And Iowa State University astrophysicists will be among those enjoying the celebration of a new telescope system and all the science it will produce.

Each of the four VERITAS cameras created by Iowa State researchers contains 500 photon detectors that can see particle showers created by gamma rays hitting the earth's atmosphere. Photo contributed by Frank Krennrich.

The $20 million VERITAS telescope system -- that's the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System -- at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory south of Tucson doesn't look like the telescope you used in high school. It's made of four reflectors 12 meters across that look like satellite dishes. The reflectors are covered with mirrors that direct light into cameras attached to the front of each dish. Each camera is about 7 feet across and contains 500 tube-shaped photon detectors or pixels. The telescope system is based on techniques Iowa State researchers Richard Lamb and David Carter-Lewis helped develop in the 1980s.

All those detectors for the VERITAS system were built in a laboratory on the fourth floor of Iowa State's Zaffarano Physics Addition. It took about $1 million and a lot of work by Iowa State post-doctoral researchers Tomoyuki Nagai and Martin Schroedter to do it.

Frank Krennrich, an Iowa State professor of physics and astronomy and leader of Iowa State's work on the VERITAS project, said the telescope system will be looking for gamma rays from space.

VERITAS is the northern hemisphere's most sensitive instrument for finding that high energy electromagnetic radiation. And gamma rays do have lots of energy: the energy of visible light is one electron volt; gamma rays have energies of one million to one trillion electron volts.

Even with all that energy, the rays can't penetrate the earth's atmosphere. But when they hit the atmosphere they create showers of electrons and positrons that create a blue light known as Cerenkov radiation. The showers move very fast. And they're not very bright.

So it takes a powerful instrument to find them. The astronomers say VERITAS is proving to be as sensitive as they expected.

"The quality of the data is so much better," Krennrich said. "The more telescopes you have, the higher the resolution for these measurements."

That's good news to Martin Pohl, an Iowa State assistant professor of physics and astronomy who's working to analyze and explain the data from the VERITAS observations, and Asif Imran, an Iowa State doctoral student whose dissertation includes the analysis of VERITAS data.

"Being able to see more precisely allows you to ask more precise questions," Pohl said.

Astrophysicists now know that gamma rays are produced by supermassive black holes, supernova remnants, pulsars, gamma ray bursts and other space objects. The crab Nebula is one source of gamma rays.

Researchers believe more knowledge of gamma rays could help them explore distant regions of space, help them look for evidence of dark matter, determine how much electromagnetic radiation the universe has produced, answer questions about the formation of stars and help explain the origins of the most energetic radiation in the universe.

Without the improvements in data now being produced by VERITAS, "You're like a fish on the beach," Pohl said.

And so these Iowa State astrophysicists have good reason to celebrate the telescope system's first light April 27-29 in the Arizona mountains.

"This is a pretty big deal," Krennrich said. "We have worked 10 years on this."

Frank Krennrich | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>