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NOAO News Archive: 2012


December 18, 2012

A Panoramic Loop in Cygnus

Giant supernova remnant, Cygnus Loop. The Image Gallery page for this image includes links to the full resolution version, which is more than 24,000 pixels on a side. Image Credit: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Richard Cool (University of Arizona) and WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

As an end of the year finale, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and WIYN partners offer this new wide-field image of the Cygnus loop.  Three degrees on a side, this image covers an area of the sky about 45 times that of the full moon.  But it does so without sacrificing high resolution.  The image is over 600 million pixels in size, making it one of the largest astronomical images ever made.

NOAO Press Release 12-09


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December 4, 2012

The Bubble Nebula, observed with the new One Degree Imager Camera

The Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635) captured by the new ODI camera on WIYN. This wide field view, showing the nebulosity carved out by the winds of the massive central star, demonstrates the exquisite image quality. An image of the central portion of the nebula, cosmetically corrected, is found here. Image Credit: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), WIYN ODI team & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF.

Just in time for the holidays, a spectacular image of the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635) demonstrates the potential of the new camera known as the One Degree Imager, or ODI, that is being commissioned at the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope on Kitt Peak. The Bubble Nebula is a shell of gas and dust carved out by the stellar wind of the massive central star (BD+60 2522), and ionized by the same star’s high-energy light. Located in the constellation Cassiopeia, this nebula is about 10 light-years across.

NOAO Release 12-07


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November 19, 2012

Galaxy clusters may offer critical clues to Dark Energy

In this image, taken at the Blanco telescope, the boundary of the cluster of galaxies is marked with a dashed line. The brightest galaxy in the cluster galaxy (BCG) is circled.

One of the major puzzles in astronomy today is the nature of the mysterious force that astronomers have dubbed Dark Energy. And one tool in understanding this force is encoded in the distribution of clusters of galaxies in the Universe. Thus, new work by a team of astronomers that has yielded exquisitely precise distances of a large sample of clusters may lead to breakthroughs in understanding the expansion history of our Universe.

NOAO Release 12-06


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November 1, 2012

Dark Energy Camera Dedication Begins Celebration of 50th Anniversary of Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory

Star trails are formed in this long exposure image of the Blanco 4-m Telescope on CTIO. Image credit: T. Abbott & CTIO/NOAO/AURA/NSF

On November 9, 2012, ceremonies on the summit of Cerro Tololo, Chile will mark the dedication of the Dark Energy Camera and the beginning of the 50th anniversary celebration of Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO). Speakers will include Drs. David Silva (NOAO Director), R. Christopher Smith (Director of AURA Observatories in Chile), Nicole van der Bliek (CTIO Director), Joshua Frieman (Director of the Dark Energy Survey), Timothy Abbott and Alistair Walker (CTIO), and Brenna Flaugher (Fermilab). NOAO Press Release 12-05


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September 17, 2012

World’s most powerful digital camera opens eye, records first images in hunt for dark energy

Left: Full Dark Energy Camera image of the Fornax cluster of galaxies, which lies about 60 million light years from Earth. The center of the cluster is the clump of galaxies in the upper portion of the image. The prominent galaxy in the lower right of the image is the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365.

Right: Zoomed-in image from the Dark Energy Camera of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365. Credit: Dark Energy Survey Collaboration.

Eight billion years ago, rays of light from distant galaxies began their long journey to Earth. That ancient starlight has now found its way to a mountaintop in Chile, where the newly constructed Dark Energy Camera, the most powerful sky-mapping machine ever created, has captured and recorded it for the first time.

That light may hold within it the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in physics – why the expansion of the universe is speeding up.

Scientists in the international Dark Energy Survey collaboration announced this week that the Dark Energy Camera, the product of eight years of planning and construction by scientists, engineers and technicians on three continents, has achieved first light. The first pictures of the southern sky were taken by the 570-megapixel camera on Sept. 12.

NOAO Press Release 12-04


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September 10, 2012

One Degree Imager debuts at WIYN telescope

Left: M15, a globular cluster in the summer sky. This image was taken using only one filter, so it appears in black/white. Future images will be possible in multiple filters for a color rendition.

Top right: The moon in the daytime with a 3.5m telescope. This shows just the central 3 X 3 subarray of detectors.

Bottom right: The ODI installation team at the telescope.

The days when professional astronomers peered through telescopes are long gone. Today, the camera or other instrument that is attached to the telescope is as important as the telescope itself. Over the life of a telescope, new instruments are added that greatly enhance its capabilities. So the new camera known as the One Degree Imager, or ODI, that is being commissioned at the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope on Kitt Peak is of great excitement to astronomers. When fully operational, the ODI camera will be able to image an area of the sky five times that of the full moon – far larger than any previous camera at the WIYN telescope. Sensitive to visible light, the camera will be able to resolve objects as small as 0.3 arc seconds – about the equivalent of seeing a baseball at a distance of 30 miles away.

NOAO Press Release 12-03


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September 3, 2012

Dr. Malcolm Smith Receives IDA David Crawford Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Malcolm Smith (center) poses at the Beijing Planetarium with his award, presented to him by NOAO Director Dr. David Silva (left) and International Dark-Sky Association Executive Director Bob Parks (right). Image Credit: Sze-leung Cheung (Hong Kong University)

On August 29th, the lights went off and the stars turned on during a special event at Beijing Planetarium. As part of the meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), Dr. Malcolm Smith, National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) was honored for his long and substantial contributions to light pollution abatement on behalf of astronomical observatories and the community at large. Dr. David Silva (NOAO Director) and Bob Parks (International Dark-Sky Association Executive Director) presented Dr. Smith with the IDA David Crawford Lifetime Achievement Award. This award, in honor of the International Dark-Sky Association’s (IDA) co-founder and first executive director, recognizes those who have made substantial effort and change in light pollution abatement education. NOAO Press Release 12-02


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August 15, 2012

Astronomers Reassured by Record-breaking Star Formation in Huge Galaxy Cluster

Optical (red, green, blue) and ultraviolet (blue) image of center of Phoenix Cluster, taken with the Mosaic II camera on the NOAO Blanco telescope at CTIO.

Until now, evidence for what astronomers suspect happens at the cores of the largest galaxy clusters has been uncomfortably scarce. Theory predicts that cooling flows of gas should sink toward the cluster’s center, sparking extreme star formation there, but so far – nada, zilch, not-so-much. The situation changed dramatically when a large international team of over 80 astronomers found evidence for extreme star formation, or a starburst, significantly more extensive than any seen before in the core of a giant galaxy cluster.

Gemini Press Release


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August 8, 2012

New 3-D Map of Massive Galaxies and Distant Black Holes Offers Clues to Dark Matter and Dark Energy

Still image from a video fly-through of the SDSS-III galaxies mapped in Data Release 9. Each galaxy in the animation is placed at the location mapped by SDSS and is represented by the zoomed-in template image that matches the actual shape of the galaxy.

Credit: Miguel A. Aragón (Johns Hopkins University), Mark SubbaRao (Adler Planetarium), Alex Szalay (Johns Hopkins University), Yushu Yao (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, NERSC), and the SDSS-III Collaboration

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) has released the largest-ever three-dimensional map of massive galaxies and distant black holes, which will help astronomers explain the mysterious “dark matter” and “dark energy” that scientists know makes up 96 percent of the Universe.

Early last year, the SDSS-III released the largest-ever image of the sky. With the new release of data, SDSS-III has begun to expand this image into a full three-dimensional map. Data Release 9 (DR9), posted online last week, makes available the first third of the galaxy map that this six-year project will create.

NOAO scientists Pforr, Beers are contributors.

SDSS Press Release


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July 6, 2012

Formula to get girls into science

High School student uses PROMPT telescope at CTIO for life changing experience, as described in this video.


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June 26, 2012

NASA’s Hubble Spots Rare Gravitational Arc from Distant, Hefty Galaxy Cluster

These images, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, show an arc of blue light behind an extremely massive cluster of galaxies residing 10 billion light-years away.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Gonzalez (University of Florida, Gainesville), A. Stanford (University of California, Davis and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and M. Brodwin (University of Missouri-Kansas City and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Seeing is believing, except when you don’t believe what you see. Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found a puzzling arc of light behind an extremely massive cluster of galaxies residing 10 billion light-years away. The galactic grouping, discovered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in combination with archival optical images taken as part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s Deep Wide Field Survey at the Kitt Peak National Observatory, was observed when the universe was roughly a quarter of its current age of 13.7 billion years.

Authors include Arjun Dey of NOAO.

Hubble Press Release


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April 16, 2012

The Lives of Stars, or Astronomers as Paparazzi

Left: C. Smith, S. Points, the MCELS Team & NOAO/AURA/NSF. Right: P. Massey & NOAO LGGS Survey

Using NOAO facilities, astronomers from Lowell Observatory have acted as “stellar paparazzi”, managing to identify hundreds of rare yellow supergiants and their more long-lived descendants, the red supergiants, in two neighboring galaxies. These newly identified stellar populations provide an important constraint on the theoretical models which describe how these stars change from blue, to yellow and then to red. The behavior of the models in this phase can influence theoretical predictions, including what types of stars explode as supernova.

NOAO Press Release 12-01


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March 15, 2012

Astronomers Using NASA’s Hubble Discover Quasars Acting as Gravitational Lenses

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and F. Courbin (EPFL, Switzerland)

Astronomers, including NOAO’s Todd Boroson, using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found several examples of galaxies containing quasars, which act as gravitational lenses, amplifying and distorting images of galaxies aligned behind them.

Quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe, far outshining the total starlight of their host galaxies. Quasars are powered by supermassive black holes.

To find these rare cases of galaxy-quasar combinations acting as lenses, a team of astronomers led by Frederic Courbin at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland) selected 23,000 quasar spectra in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). They looked for the spectral imprint of galaxies at much greater distances that happened to align with foreground galaxies. Once candidates were identified, Hubble’s sharp view was used to look for gravitational arcs and rings (which are indicated by the arrows in these three Hubble photos) that would be produced by gravitational lensing.

Hubble Press Release


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February 18, 2012

The dark side of the universe

Image Credit: T. Abbott and NOAO/AURA/NSF

AT FIVE tonnes and 520 megapixels, it is the biggest digital camera ever built—which is fitting, because it is designed to tackle the biggest problem in the universe. On February 20th researchers at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (pictured), which sits 2,200 metres (7,200 feet) above sea level in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, will begin installing this behemoth on a telescope called Blanco. It is the centrepiece of the Dark Energy Survey (DES), the most ambitious attempt yet to understand a mystery as perplexing as any that faces physics: what is driving the universe to expand at an ever greater rate. Economist Article


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February 15, 2012

Astronomers Watch Delayed Broadcast of a Powerful Stellar Eruption

These images reveal light from a massive stellar outburst in the Carina Nebula reflecting off dust clouds surrounding a behemoth double-star system.

Credit: NASA, NOAO, and A. Rest (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.)

Light echoes from dust in the vicinity of the massive binary star system Eta Carina are reported by a team of astronomers: the echo was first seen in images from the CTIO Blanco 4-m telescope.

Hubble Press Release


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