Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

HAWK-I Takes Off

24.08.2007
New Wide Field Near-Infrared Imager for ESO's Very Large Telescope

Europe's flagship ground-based astronomical facility, the ESO VLT, has been equipped with a new 'eye' to study the Universe. Working in the near-infrared, the new instrument - dubbed HAWK-I - covers about 1/10th the area of the Full Moon in a single exposure. It is uniquely suited to the discovery and study of faint objects, such as distant galaxies or small stars and planets.

After three years of hard work, HAWK-I (High Acuity, Wide field K-band Imaging) saw First Light on Yepun, Unit Telescope number 4 of ESO's VLT, on the night of 31 July to 1 August 2007. The first images obtained impressively demonstrate its potential.

"HAWK-I is a credit to the instrument team at ESO who designed, built and commissioned it," said Catherine Cesarsky, ESO's Director General. "No doubt, HAWK-I will allow rapid progress in very diverse areas of modern astronomy by filling a niche of wide-field, well-sampled near-infrared imagers on 8-m class telescopes."

"It's wonderful; the instrument's performance has been terrific," declared Jeff Pirard, the HAWK-I Project Manager. "We could not have hoped for a better start, and look forward to scientifically exciting and beautiful images in the years to come."

During this first commissioning period all instrument functions were checked, confirming that the instrument performance is at the level expected. Different astronomical objects were observed to test different characteristics of the instrument. For example, during one period of good atmospheric stability, images were taken towards the central bulge of our Galaxy. Many thousands of stars were visible over the field and allowed the astronomers to obtain stellar images only 3.4 pixels (0.34 arcsecond) wide, uniformly over the whole field of view, confirming the excellent optical quality of HAWK-I.

HAWK-I takes images in the 0.9 to 2.5 micron domain over a large field-of-view of 7.5 x 7.5 arcminutes. This is nine times larger than that of ISAAC, another near-infrared imager on the VLT that went into operation in late 1998. ISAAC has shown how deep near-infrared images can contribute uniquely to the discovery and study of large, distant galaxies, and to the study of discs around stars or even very low mass objects, down to a few Jupiter masses.

HAWK-I will build on this experience by being able to study much larger areas with an excellent image quality. HAWK-I has four 2k x 2k array detectors, i.e. a total of 16 million 0.1 arcsecond pixels.

"Until the availability of the James Webb Space Telescope in the next decade, it is clear that 8-m class telescopes will provide the best sensitivity achievable in the near-infrared below 3 microns," explained Mark Casali, the ESO scientist responsible for the instrument.

Given the wide field, fine sampling and the high sensitivity of HAWK-I, the deepest scientific impact is expected in the areas of faint sources. "With its special filter set, HAWK-I will allow us to peer into the most distant Universe," said Markus Kissler-Patig, the Instrument Scientist. "In particular, with HAWK-I, we will scrutinise the very first objects that formed in the Universe."

HAWK-I will also be very well suited for the search for the most massive stars and for the least massive objects in our Galaxy, such as hot Jupiters. But HAWK-I will also be a perfect instrument for the study of outer Solar System bodies, such as distant, icy asteroids and comets.

HAWK-I is the eleventh instrument to be installed at ESO's VLT. It bridges the gap between the first and the second generation instruments to be installed on this unique facility.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/press-rel/pr-2007/pr-36-07.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form
18.08.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays
18.08.2017 | Moscow Institute of Physics and 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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>