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Stunning images of Andromeda demonstrate the world’s most powerful astronomical camera

Posted on August 20, 2013
Stunning images of Andromeda demonstrate the world's most powerful astronomical camera

Stunning images of Andromeda demonstrate the world’s most powerful astronomical camera. Princeton University astrophysicists were part of an international collaboration to produce stunning images of the Andromeda Galaxy (above) using the new Hyper-Suprime Cam installed on the enormous Subaru Telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The images of Andromeda demonstrate the new camera’s ability to capture images for a large-scale survey that will help scientists understand the evolutionary history and fate of the expanding universe. The first image shows the entire Andromeda Galaxy. The red box centers on a part of the galaxy’s disk (second image) just above the center with young stars (blue) and hydrogen clouds (green) visible. The purple box focuses on a band of Andromeda (third image) in which a number of galaxies hundreds of millions of light years away can be seen in the background. The faint red stars scattered over the image are stars in the Milky Way, while the blue stars belong to Andromeda. Credit: Robert Lupton and the HSC team

Stunning images of the Andromeda Galaxy are among the first to emerge from a new wide-field camera installed on the enormous Subaru Telescope atop the Hawaiian mountain Mauna Kea. The camera, called the Hyper-Suprime Cam (HSC), is the result of an international collaboration between Princeton University astrophysicists and Japanese and Taiwanese scientists.

With this new camera, researchers will be able to conduct a “cosmic census” of hundreds of millions of galaxies in a wide swath of sky in sufficient depth to probe mysteries such as dark matter and dark energy, while searching for baby galaxies in the early universe. The images of the Andromeda Galaxy demonstrate the new camera’s ability to capture images for a large-scale survey that will help scientists understand the evolutionary history and fate of the expanding universe. The camera’s enormous field of view allowed the entire Andromeda Galaxy, which is some 60,000 light years across, to be captured in a single shot.

“We are very excited about using this survey to study the nature of galaxies in the distant past,” said Michael Strauss, a Princeton professor of astrophysical sciences who, with senior research scientist Robert Lupton and other scientists in Princeton’s Department of Astrophysical Sciences, is involved in processing HSC images. “Because of the finite speed of light, we see these galaxies as they were billions of years ago, and we will compare the properties of galaxies in their youth to the mature galaxies we see around us today.”

The combination of the HSC with the Subaru Telescope’s sharp imaging, wide field-of-view and large mirror—which is 26 feet, or 8.2 meters, in diameter—represents a giant step into a new era of observational astronomy. The HSC contains 116 charge-coupled devices and a wide-field corrector containing seven high optical-quality lenses in an innovative ceramic lens barrel. Of particular note is the consistent sharpness of the image across the entire picture.

HSC will have the sensitivity to measure the distortions in the shapes of hundreds of millions of distant galaxies due to the gravitational pull of dark matter. The data will help scientists understand the distribution of dark matter, the invisible material that makes up about a quarter of the mass and energy of the universe, as well as dark energy, which is thought to be speeding up the expansion of the universe.
Read more at: Phys.org

   
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