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Posts Tagged ‘telescopes’

Astronomers Discover Three Super-Earths Orbiting Nearby Star


Artist’s impression. Art by Karen Teramura & BJ Fulton, UH IfA.

Artist’s impression. Art by Karen Teramura & BJ Fulton, UH IfA.

Astronomers have discovered a planetary system orbiting a star only 54 light-years away with the Automated Planet Finder (APF) at Lick Observatory and ground-based telescopes in Hawaii and Arizona.

The team discovered the planets by detecting a wobble of the star HD 7924, a result of the gravitational pull of the planets orbiting around it. All three planets orbit the star at a distance closer than Mercury orbits the sun, completing their orbits in just 5, 15, and 24 days.

The APF facility at Lick Observatory offers a way for astronomers to speed up the exoplanet search. The fully-robotic telescope searches for planets every clear night of the year, so planets and their orbits can be discovered and traced quickly.

“The APF is great for two reasons. One, it has the superb Levy spectrometer. Two, it is a modern computer controlled telescope so we can automate it. This combination means that we can observe stars night and night out to look for the wobble,” said Bradford Holden, an Associate Research Astronomer for UC Observatories (UCO) who helped to make the telescope robotic.

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UCSB Professor Develops Cutting-Edge Detector Technology For Astronomical Observations

November 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Semiconductors have had a nice run, but for certain applications, such as astrophysics, they are being edged out by superconductors. Ben Mazin, assistant professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara, has developed a superconducting detector array that measures the energy of individual photons. The design and construction of an instrument based on these arrays, as well as an analysis of its commissioning data, appear in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

“What we have made is essentially a hyperspectral video camera with no intrinsic noise,” Mazin said. “On a pixel-per-pixel basis, it’s a quantum leap from semiconductor detectors; it’s as big a leap going from film to semiconductors as it is going from semiconductors to these superconductors. This allows all kinds of really interesting instruments based on this technology.”

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Sifting Through The Atmospheres Of Far-off Worlds


Gone are the days of being able to count the number of known planets on your fingers. Today, there are more than 800 confirmed exoplanets — planets that orbit stars beyond our sun — and more than 2,700 other candidates. What are these exotic planets made of? Unfortunately, you cannot stack them in a jar like marbles and take a closer look. Instead, researchers are coming up with advanced techniques for probing the planets’ makeup.

One breakthrough to come in recent years is direct imaging of exoplanets. Ground-based telescopes have begun taking infrared pictures of the planets posing near their stars in family portraits. But to astronomers, a picture is worth even more than a thousand words if its light can be broken apart into a rainbow of different wavelengths.

Those wishes are coming true as researchers are beginning to install infrared cameras on ground-based telescopes equipped with spectrographs. Spectrographs are instruments that spread an object’s light apart, revealing signatures of molecules. Project 1640, partly funded by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., recently accomplished this goal using the Palomar Observatory near San Diego.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-157

Inital Public Statement From AUI And NRAO On The Report Of The NSF’s Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Associated Universities Inc. (AUI) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) have made a preliminary examination of the report released today from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee (PRC). Among the recommendations of that report are that the NSF’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) be fully divested from the NSF Astronomy Division’s portfolio of research facilities in the next five years, with no further funding from the Astronomy Division.

AUI and NRAO recognize and acknowledge the need to retire obsolete facilities to make way for the state-of-the-art. However, both the GBT and the VLBA are the state-of-the-art, and have crucial capabilities that cannot be provided by other facilities. Separately the two telescopes provide unparalleled scientific access to the universe. When their information is combined, the instruments provide the highest sensitivity and resolution available for any astronomical instrument in the world.

Full Story: http://www.aui.edu/pr.php?id=20081194

Las Cumbres Telescope Sees First Light at McDonald Observatory

April 10, 2012 Leave a comment

The first of a planned suite of telescopes of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) Network achieved first light recently at The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory.

“We’re thrilled,” said LCOGT Scientific Director Tim Brown, “to have our first telescope in such a well-supported site, with superbly dark skies.”

The 1-meter (40-inch) telescope will be used for both research and outreach to K-12 schools. It is part of a large planned network of LCOGT telescopes to be installed around the world, and the first of five (two 1-meter and three 0.4-meter) and possibly more LCOGT telescopes to be installed at McDonald Observatory over the next few years.

Full Story: http://mcdonaldobservatory.org/news/releases/2012/04/09

Tips on What to See with Your New Telescope

December 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Sky & Telescope: Craig Michael Utter

Sky & Telescope: Craig Michael Utter

As the gift-giving season comes to an end, maybe now you’ve got a shiny new telescope to call your own. Congratulations — you’re on your way to discovering many amazing things in the night sky. Be it a long, sleek tube or a compact marvel of computerized wizardry, every new telescope surely has an owner itching to try it out.

“Here are two important tips,” advises Robert Naeye, editor in chief of Sky & Telescope magazine. “First, set up your scope indoors and make sure you understand how everything works before you take it out into the night.” Trying to figure out unfamiliar knobs and settings in the dark and cold is no fun.

“Second,” he adds, “be patient. Spend time with each sky object you’re able to find, and really get to know it.” Too many first-time telescope users expect Hubble-like brightness and color in the eyepiece — when in fact most astronomical objects are very dim to the human eye. And our night vision sees almost everything as shades of gray. Much of what the universe has to offer is subtle, and of course extremely distant.

Full Story: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/about/pressreleases/136384853.html