The Kitt Peak Virtual Tour

 

Science Highlights
 

 

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Why Research Astronomy?

 

Dark matter is the nonluminous mass whose existence is inferred by its gravitational influence on luminous matter.

Redshift is a shifting to a longer wavelength of light, indicating the motion of the source away from the observer.

A supernova (plural, supernovae) is an explosion indicating the final phase of a massive star's existence.

A planetary nebula (plural, nebulae) is the ejected gas about an extremely hot star nearing the end of its life.

The Hubble constant (H) is presently believed to lie between 60 and 80 km/sec per million light-years.

A protostar forms from a rotating disk of gas and dust, contracting as it spins. Gravitational forces eventually cause the protostar to ignite hydrogen fusion burning as a main sequence star like the Sun.

 

Since its founding in 1958, Kitt Peak National Observatory has provided the facilities for observation and discovery that have shaped our understanding of the universe.

The quarterly NOAO Newsletter listed the "10 Greatest Hits" of science achievements originating on Kitt Peak in December 1995 and current NOAO staff research, and visitor programs are routinely publicized.

The achievements at Kitt Peak National Observatory are indeed noteworthy.

Study of spiral galaxy rotation curves provided the first indication of dark matter in the universe. Dark matter may dominate over ordinary matter in regulating the dynamics of galaxies and the entire universe.

By using radio emission as a selection criterion, the highest redshift galaxies have been discovered. The systematic study of these galaxies, with redshifts greater than 5 and dating back to very early epochs, has resulted in a new understanding of the rate of galaxy formation.

Observations of galaxy clusters indicate that the environment of a galaxy plays a strong role in its evolution. For example, the local density of galaxies can have an impact upon star formation and stellar populations in those galaxies.

The discovery of a void in the constellation Boötes lead to an early indication of the large scale structure of the universe. Later research programs established that very large scale structures in the universe are probably not in equilibrium, causing major revisions in cosmological models.

Supernovae have produced significant results as distance indicators. Planetary nebulae have also proven to be an effective tools for measuring distances in the universe. These differing techniques are helping to determine the Hubble constant, a measure of the rate at which the universe is expanding.

Research has provided a more detailed understanding of the evolution of protostars and protoplanetary disks, an early step in star formation. Accompanying the formation of young stars are complex and frequently very large bipolar outflows.

With improvement of delivered image quality and the application of state-of-the-art instrumentation such as the CCD Mosaic Imager and the WIYN Telescope, Kitt Peak National Observatory continues to play a central role in astronomical research in the United States.

 

 

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NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc. under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. The Kitt Peak Virtual Tour is developed and maintained by the NOAO Educational Outreach Office.

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