The biggest, bestest, and most complicated telescope in all the land just took its first few shots of the cosmos, getting a detailed look at galaxies and gasses that have never been clearly seen before. The ALMA telescope in Chile, otherwise known as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, is a joint-venture project backed by Canada, Chile, the EU, Japan, Taiwan and the good ol’ US of A.
The ALMA telescope is not quite like the visible-light and infrared telescopes predominantly used today. It uses a whole group of radio telescopes that are linked together, giving it the ability to see much longer wavelengths and thus, deliver unique photos of the universe. The purpose, quoth ALMA, is to “understand how galaxy collisions can trigger the birth of new stars.” This may give us a better understanding of what the universe looked like in its infancy.
According to the AFP, the ALMA telescope is between 10 and 100 times more powerful than other similar instrumentation used elsewhere. That’s a wide range, so presumably the ALMA telescope is 10 times more powerful than the next-best telescope in its class, and 100 times more powerful than the worst. The very first images taken with ALMA were of the Antennae Galaxies, which reside about 70 million light years away in the Corvus constellation.
One of the scheduled projects that will incorporate the ALMA telescope includes work by David Wilner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who plans to hunt for the building blocks of solar systems. “We will use ALMA to image the ‘birth ring’ of planetesimals that we believe orbits this young star,” said Wilner of a star 33 light years away called AU Microscopii, which is just one percent the age of the sun. “We hope to discover clumps in these dusty asteroid belts, which can be the markers of unseen planets.”
The location of the ALMA telescope is especially advantageous. In the Atacama desert in Chile, ALMA sits 16,400 ft. above sea-level, in an incredibly dry environment. These are ideal conditions for astronomy, although human survival could prove a bit tough. The European Extremely Large Telescope (love that name), which is set to begin operating in 2018, will also be in the Atacama desert.
This is a series of time-lapse videos created by stitching together 14-years of high-res Hubble Space Telescope images to show the movement of stellar jets from young stars over that period. What’s a stellar jet? I’m partial to the SR-71 Blackbird! Fine, FINE — some actual astronomy:
Herbig-Haro objects (HH) are small patches of nebulosity associated with newly born stars, and are formed when gas ejected by young stars collides with clouds of gas and dust nearby at speeds of several hundred kilometres per second.
HH objects are transient phenomena, lasting not more than a few thousand years. They can evolve visibly over quite short timescales as they move rapidly away from their parent star into the gas clouds in interstellar space (the interstellar medium or ISM). Hubble Space Telescope observations reveal complex evolution of HH objects over a few years, as parts of them fade while others brighten as they collide with clumpy material in the interstellar medium.
BOOYA — you can officially add ‘astronomer’ to the list of things you lie about being to impress girls at the bar. But you know what the best one is? NOT saying you’re the Geekologie Writer, I can tell you that right now. You’d be better off saying unemployed.
Hit the jump for a bunch of short videos.Related Posts:
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Considering all the space nostalgia we’ve been swimming in recently, it’s somewhat appropriate that a Cold War-era telescope is gearing up to make its maiden voyage, after more than three decades of development (and delays). The Russian mission, known as RadioAstron, will finally become a reality on Monday, when a radio telescope launches from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome before soaring into orbit some 350,000 kilometers away from the Earth. At just ten meters in width, the craft’s antenna is small in comparison to other radio ‘scopes, but its reach can be dramatically expanded when combined with signals from those on the ground. This technique, called interferometry, will effectively create the largest telescope ever built, covering an area nearly 30 times the Earth’s diameter and allowing RadioAstron to capture interstellar images in 10,000 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. There remains, however, one major hurdle — because the spacecraft collects data at about 144 megabits per second, it must constantly transfer information to antennas on the ground. Problem is, there’s only one antenna capable of receiving RadioAstron’s signals and, unless others are constructed soon, a healthy chunk of its observations could be lost. How do you say “buzz-kill” in Russian?
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The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has just released the first batch of shots taken by its VLT Survey Telescope (VST), and, given the results, we’d say the thing’s got a bright future in photography. Not to be mistaken for its cousin, the VLT (very large telescope), the VST sports a 268-megapixel camera, known as the OmegaCAM, and a field of view “twice as broad as the full moon.” The images released by the ESO feature the Omega Nebula (located in the Sagittarius constellation) and Omega Centauri in stellar detail. Annie Lebovitz, eat your heart out — the rest of you hop on past the break for another shot by this up and coming shutterbug.
Continue reading VLT Survey Telescope snaps out-of-this-world photos with 268-megapixel camera
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In just under a year, Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope has managed to grow to a consistent size and to attract a strong installed base, and the evolution of the project continues with a steadfast pace. Launched in public beta in May 2008, WorldWide Telescope is currently offering no less than 25 Terabytes (TB) of both data and imagery, … (read more)
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No less than two years have passed since Microsoft introduced a new initiative designed to democratize access to astronomical data. It was on May 12th, 2008, that the WorldWide Telescope was released, and now the project developed by Microsoft Research is entering its second year of life. The two-year anniversary would have gone by unnoticed, if it weren’t for … (read more)
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In January DocInTheMachine had an article about using this technology in a cats eye.
Now it is being reported that they are officially implanting these telescopes into human eyes damaged by macular degeneration. Described as a brief outpatient procedure by the inventors at VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies.