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 Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab
15.08.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity
15.08.2018 | University of California - Riverside

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: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Diving robots find Antarctic winter seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide

15.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>