Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Very Sharp and Very Good: Successful Test for the Astronomical Measuring Instrument LUCI

26.04.2016

Heidelberg researchers played a key role in design and construction – observation at the world’s largest single telescope

After a ten-year design and construction period, a new universal device for astronomical observation at the world’s largest single telescope, the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona (USA) has been finalised and tested successfully. The highly complex instrument named LUCI allows astronomers to record images and spectra in the infrared with outstanding quality.


A composite image of planetary nebula NGC 6543. The image shows a sky region of 30x30 arc seconds. The images were taken on 20 and 21 March 2016. The luminous gases emitted by the central star are clearly visible.

Source: State Observatory Königstuhl


The LUCI spectrograph after its installation at the telescope. Its main components are hidden in a large cryostat tank behind the two black electronics boxes in the foreground.

Source: State Observatory Königstuhl

It was developed by researchers of the Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University (ZAH) in cooperation with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching. The measuring system will undergo further calibrations in the coming weeks.

Once they are complete, LUCI will be available to astronomers for regular observation activities. Researchers hope that the data collected with the new instrument will give them an insight into the “nursery” of stars and even allow them to observe planets that circle remote suns.

Located at an altitude of 3,200 metres on Mount Graham in Arizona, the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) is equipped with two mirrors of 8.4 metres diameter attached to a single mount. The LBT has the light-collecting power of a twelve-metre telescope, making it the largest single telescope in the world.

To tap its full potential, astrophysicists and engineers are developing special measuring instruments, one of which is LUCI; the abbreviation stands for “Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Utility with Camera and Integral Field”.

The universal device can take infrared pictures of a sky region and break up the light emitted by individual objects into its spectral components, as Dr Walter Seifert explains. The scientist at the State Observatory Königstuhl, which belongs to the ZAH, was involved in LUCI’s development from the very start.

Researchers assumed that the LBT would be able to provide much sharper images than the Hubble space telescope. However, for a long time that was not the case, as turbulences in the earth’s atmosphere – the same ones that make the stars appear to “twinkle” – blur images of stars and galaxies to a considerable extent. A new technology with a secondary mirror, known as adaptive optics, makes it possible to compensate for this effect at the Large Binocular Telescope.

Five years ago the LBT delivered the first super-sharp images with a test camera. Now this quality can also be achieved with the complex measuring system LUCI, even though the light emanating from the objects must pass numerous lenses and mirrors before the detector registers the cosmic signal.

The entire optic assembly is housed in a so-called cryostat which cools LUCI’s components to minus 200 degrees Celsius. “This is a necessary step to prevent undesired infrared heat radiation from LUCI’s components that would otherwise outshine the extremely weak infrared light of the observed astronomical objects,” explains Prof. Dr Jochen Heidt of the State Observatory Königstuhl.

The Heidelberg astronomer carried out the most recent test observations which, in his words, delivered “fantastic results”. According to the tests, the optical components are perfectly designed and adjusted. “They definitely deliver better results in the infrared range than Hubble,” underlines Prof. Heidt. LUCI consists of two special cameras that are used for infrared direct images of the sky and for spectroscopic examinations of astronomical objects. A third camera designed to take particularly sharp pictures is now deployed for the first time in combination with the LBT’s adaptive secondary mirror.

It uses the telescope’s full optical resolution. A particularly striking feature of LUCI, according to Prof. Heidt, are the ten fixed and up to 23 exchangeable masks that are used for long-slit and multi-object spectroscopy. This technology, which was developed at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, allows astronomers to observe up to two dozen objects at a time. Even with very low working temperatures, the masks can be exchanged without the entire instrument being subjected to a prolonged heating-up and cooling-down phase.

Once the final calibrations are complete, one of LUCI’s applications will be the observation of remote galaxies whose light is in the infrared part of the spectrum due to the cosmic redshift. Researchers also expect LUCI to give them a glimpse of the birthplaces of stars – regions of space that are hidden by intergalactic dust which is transparent only to infrared light.

In addition, they hope to gain new insights into the formation of planets that orbit distant stars. LUCI’s development and construction was a joint undertaking of experts from the State Observatory Königstuhl, the two Max Planck Institutes and additional partners. The latter are scientists from the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences and the Astronomical Institute at the Ruhr University Bochum. The LUCI project was sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as a collaborative research project.

Contact:
Dr Guido Thimm
Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University (ZAH)
Phone +49 6221 54-1805
thimm@zah.uni-heidelberg.de

Heidelberg University
Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone +49 6221 54-2311
presse@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.mpe.mpg.de/ir/lucifer
http://www.lbto.org

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
17.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

nachricht Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino
16.07.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

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: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microscopic trampoline may help create networks of quantum computers

17.07.2018 | Information Technology

In borophene, boundaries are no barrier

17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

The role of Sodium for the Enhancement of Solar Cells

17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>