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Posts Tagged ‘keck observatory’

Powerful New Astronomy Tool Arrives on Mauna Kea

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

A 10,000-pound package was delivered on Feb. 16 to the W. M. Keck Observatory near the summit of Mauna Kea. Inside is a powerful new scientific instrument that will dramatically increase the cosmic data gathering power of what is already the world’s most productive ground-based observatory.

The new instrument is called MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration). It is the newest tool to survey the cosmos and help astronomers learn more about star formation, galaxy formation and the early universe. The spectrometer was made possible through funding provided by the National Science Foundation and a generous donation from astronomy benefactors Gordon and Betty Moore.

“This is a crucial and important step,” said MOSFIRE co-principal investigator Ian McLean of U.C. Los Angeles, who has been involved in the building of four instruments for the Keck telescopes. “Just shipping it to Hawaii is the first step.” A long series of installation steps are already underway that will lead up to MOSFIRE’s “first light” on the sky and handover to the Keck community in August.

Full Story: http://keckobservatory.org/news/mosfire_astronomy_mauna_kea

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Super-Earth Detected in Cool Star’s Habitable Zone

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Image: Guillem Anglada-Escudé.

Image: Guillem Anglada-Escudé.

An international team of scientists led by Carnegie’s Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Paul Butler has discovered a potentially habitable super-Earth orbiting a nearby star. The star is a member of a triple star system and has a different makeup than our Sun, being relatively lacking in metallic elements. This discovery demonstrates that habitable planets could form in a greater variety of environments than previously believed. Their work will be published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters and the current version of the manuscript will be posted athttp://arxiv.org/archive/astro-ph

The team used public data from the European Southern Observatory and analyzed it with a novel data analysis method. They also incorporated new measurements from the Keck Observatory’s High Resolution Echelle Spectrograph and the new Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph at the Magellan II Telescope.

Their planet-finding technique involved measuring the small wobbles in a star’s orbit in response to a planet’s gravity. Anglada-Escudé and his team focused on an M-class dwarf star called GJ 667C, which is 22 light years away. It is a member of a triple-star system. The other two stars (GJ 667AB) are a pair of orange K dwarfs, with a concentration of heavy elements only 25% that of our Sun’s. Such elements are the building blocks of terrestrial planets so it was thought to be unusual for metal-depleted star systems to have an abundance of low mass planets.

Full Story: http://carnegiescience.edu/news/new_superearth_detected_within_habitable_zone_nearby_cool_star

Most Distant Dwarf Galaxy Detected

January 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Credit: D. Lagattuta / W. M. Keck Observatory

Scientists have long struggled to detect the dim dwarf galaxies that orbit our own galaxy. So it came as a surprise on Jan. 18 when a team of astronomers using Keck II telescope’s adaptive optics has announced the discovery of a dwarf galaxy halfway across the universe.

The new dwarf galaxy found by MIT’s Dr. Simona Vegetti and colleagues is a satellite of an elliptical galaxy almost 10 billion light-years away from Earth. The team detected it by studying how the massive elliptical galaxy, called JVAS B1938 + 666, serves as a gravitational lens for light from an even more distant galaxy directly behind it. Their discovery was published in the Jan. 18 online edition of the journal Nature.

Like all supermassive elliptical galaxies, JVAS B1938 + 666’s gravity can deflect light passing by it. Often the light from a background galaxy gets deformed into an arc around the lens galaxy, and sometimes what’s called an Einstein ring. In this case, the ring is formed mainly by two lensed images of the background galaxy. The size, shape and brightness of the Einstein ring depends on the distribution of mass throughout the foreground lensing galaxy.

Full Story: http://keckobservatory.org/news/most_distant_dwarf_galaxy_detected/