. Astronomy, Stellar, Planetary News .

Highest-ever resolution photos of the night sky
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (SPX) Aug 23, 2013

File image.

A team of astronomers from three institutions has developed a new type of telescope camera that makes higher resolution images than ever before, the culmination of 20 years of effort. The team has been developing this technology at telescope observatories in Arizona and now has deployed the latest version of these cameras in the high desert of Chile at the Magellan 6.5m (21 foot) telescope.

Carnegie's Alan Uomoto and Tyson Hare, joined by a team of researchers from the University of Arizona and Arcetri Observatory in Italy, will publish three papers containing the highest-resolution images ever taken, as well as observations that answer questions about planetary formation, in The Astrophysical Journal.

"It was very exciting to see this new camera make the night sky look sharper than has ever before been possible" said Laird Close of the University of Arizona, who was the project's principal scientist.

"We, for the first time, can make deep images that resolve objects just 0.02 arcseconds across-this is a very small angle-it is like resolving the width of a dime seen from 100 miles away, or like resolving a convoy of three school busses driving together on the surface of the Moon."

This improvement results from the use of a large 6.5m telescope for photography at its theoretical resolution limit for wavelengths of visible light. Previously, large telescopes could make sharp photos only in infrared (long wavelength) light.

Even large telescopes, those equipped with complex adaptive optics imaging cameras, could only make blurry images in visible light. The new camera can work in the visible spectrum and can make high-resolution photos, because as the resolution moves towards bluer wavelengths, the image sharpness improves.

To correct for atmospheric turbulence, the team developed a very powerful adaptive optics system that floats a thin (1.6 mm -1/16 of inch thick) curved glass mirror (85 cm across) on a magnetic field 9.2m above the big primary mirror of the telescope.

This, so-called Adaptive Secondary Mirror (ASM) can change its shape at 585 points on its surface 1000 times a second. In this manner the "blurring" effects of the atmosphere can be removed, and thanks to the high density of actuators on this mirror, astronomers can see the visible sky more clearly than ever before.

"The Magellan community is delighted to have this powerful new capability, a final addition to our current instrument suite," said Wendy Freedman, director of the Carnegie Observatories. "It also represents a significant technical milestone for the Giant Magellan Telescope."

The new adaptive optics system, called MagAO, has already made some important scientific discoveries. As the system was being tested, the team tried to resolve the famous star that gives the Great Orion Nebulae most of its UV light.

This 1 million-year-old star is called Theta 1 Ori C and it is about 44 times the mass of the Sun. It was already known to be a binary star (two stars rotating around each other); however, the separation between them is so small that this famous pair has never been resolved into two stars in a direct telescope photo. Once MagAO and VisAO (its visible-light camera) were pointed towards Theta Ori 1 C, the results were exciting and immediate.

The team also mapped out all the positions of the brightest nearby cluster stars and was able to detect very small motions as the stars slowly revolved around each other. Indeed a small group of five stars called Theta 1 Ori B was is likely a bound "mini-cluster" of stars, one that may eject the lowest mass star of the five in the near future.

The team also managed to address a longstanding question about how planets form. Scientists have long wondered whether the disks of gas and dust that surround a protoplanet are affected by the strong ionizing light and wind coming from a massive star, one like Theta 1 Ori C.

The team used MagAO and VisAO to look for red light from ionized hydrogen gas to trace how the strong UV light and wind from Theta 1 Ori C affects the disks around its neighboring stars. MagAO's photo shows that a pair of stars some 7 arcseconds away from Theta 1 Ori C was heavily distorted into "teardrop" shapes as the strong UV light and wind create shock fronts and drag gas downwind of the star, a very rare example of a low mass pair of young disks.

Another mystery about planetary formation is how the dust and gas are redistributed in a young disk. The team used VisAO's special simultaneous/spectral differential imager (SDI) to image one of the rare "silhouette" disks in Orion.

The disk is in front of the M42 nebula and so the astronomers could see the dark shadow cast as the dust in the disk absorbed the background light of the nebula. The SDI camera allowed the light from the star to be removed at a very high level, leaving, for the first time, a clear look at the silhouette, demonstrating that MagAO can make visible images of even very faint stars.


Related Links
Carnegie Institution
Astronomy News from Skynightly.com

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Get Our Free Newsletters
Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear


Hubble Space Telescope finds source of Magellanic Stream
Greenebelt MD (SPX) Aug 09, 2013
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have solved a 40-year mystery on the origin of the Magellanic Stream, a long ribbon of gas stretching nearly halfway around our Milky Way galaxy. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, are at the head of the gaseous stream. Since the stream's discovery by radio telescopes in the early 1970s, astronom ... read more

Pluto Science Conference Exceeds Expectations

SciTechTalk: Grab your erasers, there are more moons than we thought

NASA Hubble Finds New Neptune Moon

NASA finds new moon on Neptune

Spaceflight alters bacterial social networks

Reading a Message from ET

"Pandora" virus - covert threat from space?

Purple bacteria on Earth could survive alien light

Study: Planets might be 'born free' without a parent star

Distant planet sets speed record by orbiting its star every 8.5 hours

Kepler planet hunter spacecraft is beyond repair: NASA

Astronomers Image Lowest-mass Exoplanet Around a Sun-like Star

International Space Agencies Outline Steps to Take Humans to Mars

Snapping Pictures of the Martian Moons

Mars Rover Opportunity Working at Edge of 'Solander'

MRO Swapping Motion-Sensing Units

NASA Prepares for First Virginia Coast Launch to Moon

NASA Selects Launch Services Contract for OSIRIS-REx Mission

Environmental Controls Move Beyond Earth

Bad night's sleep? The moon could be to blame

New theory points to 'zombie vortices' as key step in star formation

A brighter method for measuring the surface gravity of distant stars

'Groovy' hologram creates strange state of light at visible and invisible wavelengths

Astronomers use 'flicker' of light to probe distant stars

Map carved onto surface of ostrich egg may be oldest showing New World

Thai villagers mistake Google worker for government snoop

Norway says no to Apple request to photograph Oslo for 3-D maps

Africa's ups and downs

High-speed tests demonstrate space penetrator concept

Sleeping spacecraft to be awakened for new asteroid hunts

Radar Images of Asteroid 2005 WK4

Researchers identify 12 'easy' candidates for asteroid mining

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement