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Looking further into the Universe

22.04.2002


How can the Universe be studied? There is no way to affect a research object of infinite dimensions. It means that the research can only be carried out via observations, employing all methods available. To this end scientists have been inventing more and more powerful telescopes which would enable them to examine closely remote spots of the Universe and to hear a `voice` of the sky at all available bandwidths. The scientists are planning to dispatch to space a cryogen submillimetric telescope called `Submillimetron`, which is supposed to play the role of a supersensitive `ear`. Hopefully, this device will provide astronomers with the first map of the Universe radiation at a 3 THz waveband. It is worth noting that the wavelength of this bandwidth makes tenth parts of a millimetre, it means that the bandwidth is at the boundary between infrared rays and microwave frequency. The stars are almost invisible at submillimetric waves and do not prevent the scientists from seeing remote Galaxies.



The Galaxies are so far away, that the time period required for their radiation to reach the Earth is close to the age of the Universe. By now the scientists have found only a few such remote Galaxies with the help of optic telescopes, while `Submillimetron` will find about a million of such objects, this invention will reveal an almost unexplored world. A team of the experienced scientists from Sweden, Finland and Russia are developing the unique device. The Russian party is represented by Academician N. Kardashev, who is heading the research activities of the project, the following entities being involved in the project implementation: Centre of Astronomy and Space, (Physical Institute of the Academy of Sciences), Institute of Physical Problems (Russian Academy of Sciences), Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics (Russian Academy of Sciences) as well as Space Rockets Corporation `Energy`, which is in charge of the telescope delivery to the space station.

It is impossible to perceive THz-radiation on the Earth - it is overlapped by the infrared radiation. That is why the telescope is to be transported to space `to listen to the stars` without disturbances, although even in space the telescope will have to be screened -from the solar and earth radiation in this case.


The sensor of the new telescope is the so-called energy absorber. It is a small metal `wire`, or film, to be more precise, 5 microns long, 0.2 microns wide and less than 0.02 microns thick. This wire is a core of the antenna. The `wire` is made of a non-superconducting metal, the ends of the wire being connected to superconducting electrodes (made of aluminium or niobium).

At an extremely low temperature (0.1 ?) the galactic noise, focused on the sensor of the antenna, heats up the conduction electrons in a non-superconducting metal. To find and to record this tiny change of the electric current, the specialists of the Physical Faculty, Moscow State University are producing a special chip, containing an amplifier and a commutator. Due to it, a minor change of the electric current can be transformed into the voltage change.

Despite the seeming simplicity of the physical idea, it is not easily implemented. The scientists are still facing a lot of problems as regards to the efficiency of heating the electrons at this radiation bandwidth. However, the researchers are confident that these issues can be solved. And pretty soon, in about five years, we shall be able to hear the `voice` of the sky at a new bandwidth. With the help of this new device the astronomers and physicists will be able to answer the questions they are not even thinking about yet. Probably, they will hear the voice of an extraterrestrial civilisation. Or perhaps, they will discover something absolutely new, for instance, a type of substance previously unknown. Anyway, the researchers will acquire new opportunities to study the Universe.

Olga Maksimenko | alphagalileo

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