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NOAO News & Reports

February 9, 2015

NASA Solicits Proposals for a World-class Precision Doppler Spectrometer at Kitt Peak National Observatory

Very high velocity precision is needed to measure the mass of low mass planets through the subtle motion, the “wobble”, that a planet induces in its host star. The extreme precision radial velocity spectrometer (EPDS) destined for Kitt Peak will measure stellar motions with a precision of 0.1 - 0.5 m/s (or 0.2 - 1 mph), velocities comparable to the running speed of a desert tortoise or gila monster. With such high precision, the spectrometer will be able to detect and characterize Jupiter- and Neptune-sized gas giant planets as well as super-Earth and Earth-sized rocky planets.

Kitt Peak National Observatory is the future home of a state-of-the-art instrument that will be used to detect and characterize other worlds. The new instrument, an extreme precision radial velocity spectrometer, will measure the subtle motion of stars produced by their orbiting planets. The spectrometer, funded by NASA, will be deployed on an existing telescope at Kitt Peak, the 3.5-meter WIYN telescope. The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), which is funded by NSF, is a partner in the telescope and operates Kitt Peak.

NOAO Press Release 15-02

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January 5, 2015

Smashing Results About Our Nearby Galactic Neighbors

The green circles in the image above show some of the DECam pointings of the SMASH survey, indicating the area where Magellanic Cloud stars have been found. Image Credit: K. Olsen (NOAO/AURA/NSF), SMASH team, Roger Smith, & McClure-Griffiths.

An early result from the Survey of the Magellanic Stellar History (SMASH), carried out by an international team of astronomers using telescopes that include the Blanco 4-meter at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, suggests the the Magellanic Clouds are much bigger than astronomers calculated, and also have non-uniform structure at their outer edge, hinting at a rich and complex field of debris left over from their formation and interaction. Results were presented at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 15-01

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December 18, 2014

Compact Galaxy Groups Reveal Details of Their Close Encounters

Image of HCG 07 shows galaxies undergoing a burst of star formation. Image credit: Dane Kleiner

A team including NOAO staff scientist Dr. David James has obtained spectacular images of some Compact Galaxy Groups with the Dark Energy camera on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. This image of HCG 07 shows galaxies undergoing a burst of star formation.

NOAO Press Release 14-08

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September 22, 2014

Infant Solar System Shows Signs of Windy Weather

Artist’s rendition of AS 205 N, a T Tauri star that is part of a multiple star system.

Image Credit: P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF

NOAO astronomer Colette Salyk has led a study using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have observed what may be the first-ever signs of windy weather around a T Tauri star, an infant analog of our own Sun. This may help explain why some T Tauri stars have disks that glow weirdly in infrared light while others shine in a more expected fashion.

NOAO Press Release 14-07

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September 9, 2014

HD100546 and Circumstellar Disk with Extrasolar Planet

In a recently published paper, NOAO astronomer Joan Najita was part of a team that has shown the first evidence for a planet forming in the disk around a young star. This figure is an artist’s conception of the young massive star HD100546 and its surrounding disk.

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