NOAO < ICARCHIVES < NOAO Home Page Image Archive

NOAO Home Page Image Archive

The following images have appeared on the NOAO Home Page over the last several years.

January 10, 2018

Image Credit: R. Hahn & the DES Collaboration; inset: Alex Drlica-Wagner (Fermilab), Nora Shipp (U. Chicago), & the DES Collaboration

New Stellar Streams Confirm ‘Melting Pot’ History of the Galaxy

While most stars in the Milky Way were likely born here, many appear to have originated in other galaxies and migrated to our shores. Tell-tale evidence comes from streams of stars created when small galaxies interact with the Milky Way. Eleven new stellar streams, discovered in data from the Dark Energy Survey, currently in progress at the CTIO Blanco telescope, provide new evidence for this picture. The public release of the survey data continues the trend toward “Big Data” in astronomy.

View & Share the Trailer Video
Read more in NOAO Press Release 18-01.

December 06, 2017

Image Credit: Jinyi Yang, University of Arizona; Reidar Hahn, Fermilab; M. Newhouse NOAO/AURA/NSF

A Precocious Black Hole Behemoth at the Edge of Cosmic Dawn

Peering back in time, to an era when the Universe was only 5% of its current age, astronomers have spotted the most distant supermassive black hole discovered to date. The young black hole, which is rapidly feeding and growing, is already as massive as present-day black holes that reside at the centers of galaxies. The discovery, published in Nature, was made with data from the DECam Legacy Survey (DECaLS) that is being carried out with the CTIO Blanco telescope.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 17-07.

November 15, 2017

Image Credit: M. Hanna & NOAO/AURA/NSF; Inset: R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Animation of asteroid mozing across sky

A Familiar-Looking Messenger from Another Solar System

The visit of the interstellar interloper U1, recently spotted streaking through the Solar System, gives the people of Earth their first chance to study up close an object from another planetary system. Observations with the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak reveal that despite its foreign origins, U1 appears similar to asteroids in our Solar System. The result supports the long-held view that our Solar System once ejected its own flotilla of messengers like U1 out into interstellar space.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 17-06.

October 16, 2017

Image Credit: Babak Tafreshi; Inset: Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital, Inc.

That Gold on Your Finger May Be Dust from a Neutron Star

Telescopes pinpoint optical glow of a binary neutron star merger detected in gravitational waves

The precious elements in our Earth-bound bling are thought to have been forged in ancient fiery cataclysms, when pairs of neutron stars spiraled together and merged into black holes. Telescopes at CTIO recently pinpointed and studied the light from such a merger. The first optical counterpart to a gravitational wave detection, the discovery confirms that merging neutron star binaries are indeed major cosmic production sites of rare heavy elements.

View & Share the Trailer Video
Read more in the NOAO Press Release: Cosmic Forge of Rare Heavy Elements Discovered.

October 02, 2017

Image Credit: Yuri Zvezdny, Russia

2017 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest Winners

A stunning collection of images showcased in the 8th International Earth & Sky Photo Contest highlights the beauty of the night sky and the battle with light pollution. The contest is a collaboration between NOAO, the World at Night (TWAN), and Global Astronomy Month, a program of Astronomers Without Borders (AWB). NOAO astronomer Connie Walker, recent president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and director of the Globe at Night program, served as one of the contest judges.

September 13, 2017

Image Credit: Russell Kightley; Inset: P. Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF and E. Acosta/LSST/AURA/NSF

Supernova Survivor Flung Far from Home

Although most supernovae completely obliterate the exploding white dwarf, one unusual white dwarf appears to be a fragment of a ‘failed’ explosion. Ejected by the explosion with a speed high enough to escape the Galaxy, the star’s atmosphere is much like the core material of a once massive white dwarf. Forensic spectra taken with the KPNO Mayall telescope helped astronomers reconstruct the star’s perilous past.

Read More:

August 30, 2017

Image Credits: left – T. Abbott & NOAO/AURA/NSF; right – A. Alishevskikh

House-Sized Near Earth Objects Rarer Than We Thought

In 2013 a house-sized meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. How many similar-sized rocks have orbits that bring them close to the Earth? A new study answers that question using the Dark Energy Camera on the CTIO Blanco telescope. The result — by a research team that includes NOAO astronomers Lori Allen, Frank Valdes, David Herrera, and Jayadev Rajagopal — lends new insights into the nature and origin of small meteors.

View & share the trailer and read NOAO Press Release 17-04.

August 03, 2017

Background Image: R. Hahn; Inset: C. Chang, Kavli Institute, and the DES collaboration.

70-26-4: The Cosmic Mix Confirmed

New results from the Dark Energy Survey confirm that the Universe is mostly made of dark energy (70%) and dark matter (26%), with normal baryonic matter comprising just a smidge (4%). In other words, the Universe is mostly made of stuff we don’t understand! The results of the survey, which is being carried out with DECam on the CTIO Blanco telescope, were derived from high precision maps of gravitational lensing and large scale structure.

Read more in the Fermilab Dark Energy Survey Press Release.

July 21, 2017

Observers: D. Gerdes and S. Jouvel; Inset Image Credit: T. Abbott and NOAO/AURA/NSF

Superluminous supernova proclaims the death of a star at cosmic high noon

Ten billion years ago, a massive star ended its life in a brilliant explosion three times as bright as all of the stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way, combined. News of its death, which recently reached Earth, was detected in the Dark Energy Survey being carried out with DECam at the CTIO Blanco telescope (pictured, above right). The supernova is one of the most distant ever discovered and confirmed.

Read more in the UC Santa Cruz Press Release.

July 11, 2017

Image Credit: Zhen-Ya Zheng (SHAO) & Junxian Wang (USTC)

Distant Galaxies ‘Lift the Veil’ on the End of the Cosmic Dark Ages

A study of the distant Universe finds that small star-forming galaxies were abundant when the Universe was only only 800 million years old, a few percent of its present age. The results suggest that the earliest galaxies, which illuminated and ionized the Universe, formed at even earlier times. The study was carried out by an international team, including NOAO astronomer Alistair Walker, using the Dark Energy Camera on the CTIO Blanco telescope.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 17-03.

June 19, 2017

Image Credit: M. A. Newhouse & NOAO/AURA/NSF; inset: S. Sheppard, Carnegie Institution for Science

A New Jovian Mini-Moon

Discovered with DECam on the CTIO Blanco telescope, the diminutive moon S/2017 J1, only a mile across, takes 2 years to complete an orbit around Jupiter. Its retrograde orbit — in the direction opposite to Jupiter’s spin — tells us that the moon originated elsewhere and was captured by Jupiter. The inset shows the discovery images taken by astronomers Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo. The discovery brings to 69 the total number of Jovian moons known.

Read more in the Sky & Telescope article.

June 05, 2017

Image Credit: Stefan Binnewies and Josef Pöpsel of Capella Observatory (background image); Stephanie Juneau of NOAO and CEA-Saclay (inset)

Blowing the Cover of a Hidden Black Hole

The nearby galaxy NGC 7582 is an extreme example of an “obscured AGN”, a galaxy with an accreting supermassive black hole that is deeply enshrouded in gas and dust. New observations show that the black hole launches a powerful wind, which is confined by a rotating ring of gas and dust 2000 light years in diameter. The ring also contributes to the extreme obscuration of the black hole. The results, reported by a team led by NOAO astronomer Stephanie Juneau, lend new insights into the interaction between black holes and their host galaxies.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 17-02.

May 17, 2017

Punching Above Its Weight, a Brown Dwarf Launches a Parsec-Scale Jet

Astronomers using the SOAR telescope at CTIO have discovered a spectacular extended jet from a young brown dwarf. While young stars are known to launch jets that extend over a light year or more, this is the first such jet from a brown dwarf. The discovery, made by a team that includes NOAO astronomers Cesar Briceno and Steve Heathcote, lends new insight into how substellar objects form.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 17-01.

April 19, 2017

Image Credit: Alexandra Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Meet “DeeDee”, a Distant Dwarf in the Outer Solar System

Located 92 AU from the Sun, DeeDee is the second most distant trans-Neptunian object known — only the dwarf planet Eris is further away. Discovered in the Dark Energy Survey, which is being carried out at CTIO, DeeDee is petite, with a diameter ¼ that of Pluto. DeeDee was discovered by an international team, including NOAO astronomers Alistair Walker and Tim Abbott.

Read more in the NRAO Press Release.

March 22, 2017

Image/Video Credit: Rongpu Zhou

Dusk to Dawn time-lapse at CTIO

While observing for the DECam Legacy Survey (DECaLS), Rongpu Zhou (University of Pittsburgh) set up a camera to capture a time-lapse of the evening. For the first 18 seconds of the video, the moon illuminates the foreground as if it were daylight, while the night sky rotates overhead. As the moon sets, many more stars become visible, and our galaxy, the Milky Way, rises as the Magellanic Clouds set behind the Blanco 4m Telescope. The time-lapse was taken on 4 March 2017.

Click the image to view the time-lapse and to see more options.

March 02, 2017

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

March 2017
NOAO Newsletter

The March 2017 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download. It contains sections on Science Highlights, Community Science & Data, System Observing: Telescopes and Instruments, and NOAO Operations & Staff.

On the Cover
NOAO is developing tools for the astronomical community to enable research using big datasets from multiple sources. The cover image is the first panel of “Tales of the Modern Astronomer: Boom Goes the Night,” which tells the story of a young researcher who uses tools such as ANTARES to find the optical afterglow of a gravitational wave detection by combining LIGO with the LSST alert stream to identify optical afterglow candidates that can be followed up with telescopes such as Gemini and the Blanco 4mtelescope using the Dark Energy Camera.

February 03, 2017

Image Credit: J. Rose & NOAO/AURA/NSF

Engaging Students in STEM

Over 200 students from six Tucson high schools recently built Galileoscopes, small mass-produced telescopes that offer an inexpensive way to view the same celestial objects studied by Galileo. The telescope-building event, part of the MathMovesU program, was led by Raytheon Engineers and the UA Early Academic Office in partnership with NOAO and the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. The MathMovesU program aims to inspire students to consider majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields in college and to pursue STEM careers.

Local media coverage of the event:

January 09, 2017

Image Credit: Babak A. Tafreshi

Protecting Dark Skies for Astronomy and Life

Artificial light at night is a threat to astronomical research, personal safety, and the health of humans and wildlife. To address the challenge posed by the proliferating use of LEDs for billboards and street lighting, NOAO, in partnership with other concerned organizations, recently convened a workshop to showcase successful strategies for reducing light pollution. The workshop was held at the January meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) where the AAS Council announced a three-part resolution on light pollution, including calling on all AAS members to protect dark skies in their communities. Read more…

December 29, 2016

NOAO announces with sorrow the death of Dr. Vera Rubin

Dr. Vera Rubin began observing at Kitt Peak National Observatory in 1963 at the 36-inch telescope. With her colleague Kent Ford, she continued using the Kitt Peak 2.1-m, accumulating over 60 galaxy rotation curves over the following years. Flat rotation curves were directly visible from the spectra: these data provided compelling observational evidence for a new kind of matter in the Universe, “dark matter”. Vera Rubin continued observing at Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololo throughout her long career, and will be greatly missed by the entire NOAO science staff, the mountain technical staff, and everyone who had the good fortune to meet her.

November 15, 2016

DECam Legacy Survey Announces Third Data Release

The DECam Legacy Survey (DECaLS) has released reduced images and source catalogs covering between 4000 and 8000 square degrees of sky in three wavelength bands. Dive into survey images and explore the Universe with the survey’s Imagine Sky Viewer. DECaLS, which is being carried out on the CTIO Blanco telescope, is one of three public surveys that will jointly image 14,000 square degrees of sky to provide targets for the upcoming Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument cosmology project at the Kitt Peak Mayall telescope.

Read more in the NOAO Currents article.

October 24, 2016

Image Credit: Y. Beletsky, ESO / Todd Mason, Mason Productions, Inc. / LSST Corporation / P. Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Maximizing Science in the Era of LSST

A recent community-based study takes a science-driven look at the question “What supporting OIR capabilities will be needed to maximize the science enabled by the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)?” The study report quantifies needed capabilities and highlights ways that existing, planned, and future resources can be positioned to accomplish community science goals.

Read more:

October 11, 2016

Image Credit: Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); NASA/ESA Hubble

New Insights into the ‘Golden Age’ of Galaxy Formation

Studies of a distant corner of the Universe, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, made with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) have revealed distant galaxies rich in molecular gas. Their high gas content likely fueled the high rate of star formation during the “Golden Age” of galaxy formation 10 billion years ago. The discovery was made by international team of astronomers, including NOAO astronomer Mark Dickinson.

Read more:

September 29, 2016

Image Credit: LCOGT

NSF Funds Open Access to Las Cumbres Observatory

Beginning in 2017, open access time on the LCO global telescope network will be available to the US community through the NOAO TAC. The LCO network includes nine 1m and two 2m optical telescopes that are optimized for time-domain studies. A call for proposals will be issued by NOAO early next year. Read More...

September 19, 2016

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Pluto Spray Paints its Moon Red

The red color near the north pole of Charon, Pluto’s largest moon, originates on Pluto. Once a mystery, it now appears that the red color of “Mordor Macula” arises as methane gas escapes from Pluto’s atmosphere and freezes onto the icy surface of Charon’s north pole. UV light from the Sun then transforms the methane into reddish organic materials. The New Horizons team that reported this result includes NOAO astronomer Tod Lauer.

Read more in the NASA Press Release.

September 12, 2016

Image Credit: K. Vivas & CTIO/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Ultra-faint stellar systems discovered toward the Sagittarius stream

Astronomers have discovered ultra-faint stellar systems in the direction of the Sagittarius stream, the stream of stars that is being pulled out of the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy as it orbits our own Milky Way galaxy. Similar in size to globular clusters but much fainter, the new stellar systems straddle the fuzzy boundary between dwarf galaxies and stellar clusters. The discovery was made by a team of astronomers using data from the Dark Energy Survey being carried out at CTIO. Team members include NOAO astronomers Kathy Vivas, Tim Abbott, David James, Chris Smith, and Alistair Walker. Read More...

September 02, 2016

Image Credit: L. Huang, P. Marenfeld, and K. Olsen/NOAO/AURA/NSF.

September 2016
NOAO Newsletter

The September 2016 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download. It contains sections on Science Highlights, System Science Capabilities, System Observing: Telescopes and Instruments, and NOAO Operations & Staff.

On the Cover
This map, created using the NOAO Data Lab Data Discovery Tool, shows the total exposure in science frames taken with any of the DECam, or KPNO and CTIO Mosaic imagers. The sky has been rotated to center on the Dark Energy Survey “footprint.”

August 29, 2016

Image Credit: Pieter van Dokkum, Roberto Abraham, Gemini Observatory/AURA.

More Than Meets the Eye: A Massive Galaxy That’s Nearly All Dark Matter

The ultra-diffuse galaxy Dragonfly 44, located in the Coma Cluster of galaxies, has the mass and size of the Milky Way galaxy, but very few stars. The other 99.99% of the mass is a form of dark matter. Observations made with the Gemini and Keck Observatories were used to infer the mass of the galaxy from the motions of its stars and to take a census of its globular cluster population.

Read more in the Gemini Press Release.

August 19, 2016

Image Credit: NASA/Tim Pyle, inset: C. Baranec

A five-planet system revealed by NASA's Kepler K2 mission

Astronomers using data from the Kepler spacecraft have discovered five planets in orbit around a nearby bright star. The planets have orbital periods ranging from 15 days to 1 year and sizes from 2.5 times the radius of the Earth to approximately the size of Jupiter. Because the central star is bright, future transit observations may be able to characterize the atmospheres of the planets. The Robo-AO adaptive optics system on the Kitt Peak 2.1m telescope was used to rule out a non-planetary origin for the transit signals.

Read more from AAS Nova.

August 09, 2016

Image Credit: R. Lafever, J. Moustakas/DESI Collaboration, P. Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF & E. Acosta/LSST/AURA/NSF

Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument Enters Construction Phase

The 3-D spectroscopic sky-mapping project, DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument), has received formal approval from the US Department of Energy to begin construction. Installation at the Kitt Peak Mayall telescope will begin in 2017. Designed to measure the role of dark energy in the expansion history of the Universe, DESI will measure the redshifts of more than 30 million galaxies and quasars and create a map of the Universe out to a distance of 10 billion light years.

Read more in the LBL Press Release.

July 20, 2016

Image Credit: Karen Teramura/IfA, Miloslav Druckmüller, NASA

Trove of Planets Discovered with Kepler and Earth-based Observatories

Once thought to be damaged beyond repair, NASA’s Kepler telescope survives and thrives, discovering new worlds beyond the solar system. A team of astronomers has reported over 100 new planets found in recent Kepler data. Extensive ground-based observations were carried out to sift the real planets from false positives. The team, which includes NOAO’s own Mark Everett, used a suite of facilities, including Gemini North and Keck Observatory, in the study.

Read more:

July 07, 2016

Image Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI) & S. Sheppard, et. al.

Beyond the
Kuiper Belt Edge

Two new Kuiper Belt objects, 2014 FZ71 and 2015 FJ345, are among the most distant bodies in the Solar System. They are always further than 50AU from the Sun, and only Sedna and 2012 VP113 have larger perihelia. The discovery was made using data from DECam on the Blanco 4-m telescope at CTIO.

Read more…

June 20, 2016

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Young Super-Neptune Offers Clues to the Origin of Close-In Exoplanets

A team of astronomers has confirmed the existence of a young planet, only 11 million years old, that orbits very close to its star (at 0.05 AU), with an orbital period of 5.4 days. Approximately 5 times the size of the Earth, the new planet is a “super-Neptune” and the youngest such planet known. Observations with ARCoIRIS, the new infrared spectrograph on the 4-m Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), played a critical role in measuring the size of the planet. NOAO astronomer David James is a coauthor on the study.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 16-02

June 16, 2016

Image Credit: Alvin Wu

Milky Way Like a Dolphin

The rising arc of the Milky Way is captured on Mauna Kea observatory, Hawaii, showing the Gemini North telescope in the foreground. This image is the Photo Composite winner in the Light Category of the 7th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest, co-hosted by NOAO and the founding institution “The World at Night”. This annual contest was created to highlight the natural beauty of the night sky and its growing battle with light pollution. The 10 winners of the 2016 contest, selected from more than 1000 entries taken in 57 countries, are shown in the contest video. The panel of judges included NOAO astronomer Connie Walker.

June 09, 2016

Image Credit: A. Passwaters/Rice University

Likely new planet may be in slow death spiral

Astronomers searching for the galaxy’s youngest planets have found one unlike any other: a newborn ‘hot Jupiter’ whose outer layers are being pulled away by the star it orbits. Possibly in a slow death spiral, the planet was studied with multiple telescopes including the Kitt Peak 4-m Mayall.

Read more in the Rice University Press Release.

June 01, 2016

Image Credit: NOAO/AURA/NSF; Overlay: C. M. Johns-Krull, et. al. & Rice University

Giant Planet Discovered Around a Very Young Star

In a rare find, astronomers have detected a young giant planet still embedded in its natal disk of gas and dust. The planet was detected by the wobble it induces in the star that it orbits. The discovery may lend new insights into how planets form. Spectra from the KPNO 2.1m and Mayall telescopes were used in the discovery.

Read more in the Rice University Press Release.

May 25, 2016

Image Credit: Dr. Rui Xue, Purdue University

Young Mammoth Cluster of Galaxies Sighted in the Early Universe

Astronomers have uncovered evidence for a vast collection of young galaxies 12 billion light years away. The newly discovered “proto-cluster” of galaxies, observed when the universe was only 1.7 billion years old (12% of its present age), is one of the most massive structures known at that distance. The discovery was made using telescopes at KPNO and Keck Observatory. NOAO Astronomer Arjun Dey is the lead author of the study.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 16-01.

May 18, 2016

Image Credit: R. Kuhn & Vanderbilt University/SAAO

Puffy Giant Planet Discovered by KELT-S Transit Survey

Transiting planets orbiting bright stars provide a golden opportunity to learn about the nature of exoplanets, their composition and origin. KELT-S, a robotic survey of the southern sky that is designed to detect transiting planets orbiting bright stars, reports its first discovery: a highly inflated giant planet. The planet, KELT-10b, is an attractive target for future studies aimed at characterizing planetary atmospheres. NOAO astronomer David James is a founding member of the survey.

March 29, 2016

Image Credit: M. Hanna & NOAO/AURA/NSF

NASA Selects Team to Build a Planet-finding Spectrometer for WIYN

A Penn State research group led by Dr. Suvrath Mahadevan will build an extreme precision radial velocity spectrometer to detect and characterize worlds beyond our solar system.

Read more…

March 23, 2016

Image Credit: P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF; Inset: Tim Miller, LBL

A new pair of lenses for the Mayall

To be deployed as part of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument project, the lenses, which weigh a quarter ton, will help us see the effect of dark energy on the expansion history of the universe.

Read more in Symmetry Magazine.

February 11, 2016

Credit: SXS, LIGO Laboratory and T. Abbot & NOAO/AURA/NSF

Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein’s prediction

Ripples in the fabric of spacetime produced by two merging black holes were detected by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO; top inset). The announcement comes 100 years after Albert Einstein’s prediction of the existence of gravitational waves and signals the opening of the gravitational wave Universe. The wide-field imaging capability of DECam at CTIO (bottom inset) was used to search for the optical counterpart of the gravitational wave event.

Read more

February 04, 2016

Credit: T. Hurteau, Yale, P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF

After quick makeover, KPNO camera sees redder better

The Mosaic-3 camera, mounted on the 4-m Mayall, is on a two-year mission to image the sky in preparation for the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument. Now equipped with cutting-edge, red-sensitive charge-coupled devices (CCDs, top inset image) and new mechanical components (including the focal plate; bottom inset image), Mosaic-3 is the product of a small collaboration of scientists and engineers at Berkeley Lab, Yale University, and NOAO.

Read more in the Berkeley Lab Press Release.

February 01, 2016

Credit: Fermilab

Dark Energy Survey releases early data

Science Verification data from the Dark Energy Survey now publicly available. Covering only 3% of the full survey area, these data were used to create the largest dark matter mass map to date. The survey is being carried out with Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the 4-m Blanco telescope at CTIO (pictured).

Read more in the Fermilab Press Release.

January 27, 2016

Powerful blasts from a giant black hole

Images of NGC 5195, the companion to M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, show slender arcs of cool hydrogen-emitting gas (red in inset image) that border two giant arcs of hot X-ray emitting gas observed by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue in inset). The arcs formed when hot gas expelled from the black hole swept up cooler gas from the center of the galaxy. The H-alpha image (red in inset) was taken with the Kitt Peak National Observatory 0.9-meter telescope.

Read more in the Chandra Press Release.

January 08, 2016

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Missouri/M.Brodwin et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Infrared: JPL/CalTech

Heavyweight Champion of the Distant Universe

Weighing in at 500 trillion times the mass of the Sun, the young galaxy cluster IDCS 1426, located 10 billion light years from Earth, is the most massive distant cluster known. Recently weighed using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope, it was first identified with data from the NOAO Deep Wide-field Survey and data taken with the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Read more in the Chandra Press Release.

November 23, 2015

Oodles of Faint Dwarf Galaxies in Fornax
Shed Light on a Cosmological Mystery

An astonishing number of faint low surface brightness dwarf galaxies recently discovered in the Fornax cluster of galaxies may help to solve the long-standing cosmological mystery of “The Missing Satellites”. The discovery, made by an international team of astronomers led by Roberto Muñoz and Thomas Puzia of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, was carried out using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the 4-m Blanco telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO). CTIO is operated by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).

Read more in NOAO Press Release 15-09.

November 11, 2015

T.A.Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), H. Schweiker/WIYN , I.P.Dell'Antonio (NOAO/AURA/NSF) and Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA/NASA). Book Cover Design: Kristina Kachele

Coloring the Universe

A new book will give readers a behind-the-scenes look at how spectacular images of space are made by the world’s largest and most powerful telescopes. Featuring over three hundred large-format pictures, Coloring the Universe is an insider’s guide at what happens at the professional observatories (including NOAO) when we release color images of space. The book focuses on how the images are made, why they look the way they do, and what scientists learn from them.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 15-08.

October 12, 2015

P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF. Inset: C. Baranec

A Sharp-Eyed Future for Historic Kitt Peak Telescope

A team led by the California Institute of Technology has been selected to transform the venerable 2.1 meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory into the first dedicated adaptive optics (AO) observatory for astronomy. This system, named Robo-AO KP, will allow astronomers to study, at high angular resolution, large numbers of astronomical objects, spanning science from planetary to stellar, and exoplanetary to extragalactic.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 15-07.

September 30, 2015


DECaLS Galaxies Now in Galaxy Zoo

Classify galaxies and join the quest to unravel the history of galaxy formation! The public DECaLS survey capitalizes on the wide-field imaging capability of DECam at CTIO and is led by David Schlegel (LBNL) and Arjun Dey (NOAO).

September 21, 2015

P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF

Dark Energy Spectrometer for Kitt Peak Receives Funding Green Light

The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), destined for the 4-m Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak, will chart out the role of dark energy in the expansion history of the universe. The US Department of Energy has announced its approval of Critical Decision 2 for the DESI project, authorizing its scientific scope, schedule, and funding profile. To carry out its mission, DESI will measure the redshifts of more than 30 million galaxies and quasars and create a map of the universe out to a distance of 10 billion light years.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 15-06.

September 01, 2015

John Moustakas and Kevin Napier/Siena College

September 2015
NOAO Newsletter

The September 2015 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download.

On the Cover
An image from the Dark Energy Camera Legacy Survey (DECaLS), a public survey mapping 6700 square degrees, approximately one-sixth of the sky, using the Blanco 4-m telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. The image shows the interacting galaxy system UGC 12589 at a distance of 470 million light-years. The distorted morphologies and diffuse light result from the gravitational interaction between the galaxies.

August 27, 2015

Dark Energy Survey finds more celestial neighbors

Eight new dwarf galaxy “neighbors” of the Milky Way discovered in recent data from the Dark Energy Survey (DES). More than 20 such companions to our galaxy have been discovered this year, of which 17 were found in DES data. Dwarf satellite galaxies may provide valuable clues to the nature of dark matter and how galaxies like the Milky Way formed. The Dark Energy Survey is being carried out on the 4-m Blanco telescope at CTIO.

August 21, 2015

Astronomers find ‘teeny supermassive black hole’

Discovered in dwarf galaxy RGG118, the petite black hole, only 50,000 times the mass of the sun, is the smallest supermassive black hole to date. NOAO Hubble Fellow Amy Reines is a coauthor on the study.

August 09, 2015

Chilean Astronomical Site Becomes World’s First International Dark Sky Sanctuary

On Sunday, 9 August, 2015, at the International Astronomical Union meeting in Honolulu, Hawai’i, the International Dark-Sky Association announced that the site of the Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) Observatory in the Elqui Valley of northern Chile will be recognized and designated as the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world. The site will be known as the “Gabriela Mistral Dark Sky Sanctuary” after the famed Chilean poet.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 15-05.

July 27, 2015

Hiding in Plain Sight: Undergraduates Discover the Densest Galaxies Known

Using imaging data from a variety of telescopes as well as spectroscopy from the Goodman Spectrograph on the Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope (SOAR), two undergraduates at San José State University have discovered two galaxies that are the densest known. Similar to ordinary globular star clusters but a hundred to a thousand times brighter, the new systems have properties intermediate in size and luminosity between galaxies and star clusters.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 15-04.

July 09, 2015

NGC 2346 – A Cosmic Butterfly’s Delicate Wings

NOAO scientists, using the Gemini Observatory 8-meter telescope in Chile, have obtained the highest resolution image ever obtained for the planetary nebula NGC 2346. The new observations of this bipolar planetary nebula resolve details comparable in size to our own solar system. The team detected previously unresolved knots and filaments of molecular hydrogen gas - details that no other telescope on the ground or in space, not even the Hubble Space Telescope, has been able to resolve.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 15-03.

July 01, 2015

Image credit: Evgeny Trisko

Above and Underneath

The 6th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest, co-hosted by NOAO and the founding institution “The World at Night”, highlights the natural beauty of the night sky and its growing battle with light pollution. The 10 winners of the 2015 contest, selected from among a 1000 entries taken in 54 countries, are shown in the contest video. The panel of judges included NOAO astronomer Connie Walker. This entry, “Above and Underneath” by Evgeny Trisko, was photographed in Pyatigorsk, in the Stavropol region of Russia. It is the fifth place winner from the “Against the Lights” category, which emphasizes the growing issue of light pollution and how it affects our view of the night sky. The panoramic view shows clouds illuminated by towns and villages hidden beneath the inversion layer.

June 05, 2015

Image credit: John Moustakas & DECam Legacy Survey

DECam Legacy Survey has its first data release

The public DECam Legacy Survey (DECaLS) is delivering a new dataset that will allow astronomers to probe the structure of the Milky Way, the nature of dark energy, and many other topics in astrophysics. The survey leads David Schlegel (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and Arjun Dey (NOAO) recently announced the first data release from the survey. The data and catalogs can be accessed at Dive into survey images and explore the Universe using the survey’s Sky Viewer. Future releases are anticipated at 6 month intervals. The survey capitalizes on the wide-field imaging capability of DECam at CTIO.

June 02, 2015

Image credit: Anja von der Linden

Milky Way over CTIO

This stunning image of the Milky Way arching over CTIO was taken from the eastern edge of the observatory, looking West (and South and North). The panorama shows the central and brightest part of the Milky Way. The bright objects on the left are the two Magellanic Clouds; the Andromeda Galaxy is visible on the right, just above the horizon. The green and red stripes in the sky are from airglow; the orange domes are from light pollution.

The panorama is a composite of 9 images, taken on the night of July 31, 2014, with a Canon 6d and a Samyang 24mm lens.

May 26, 2015

Image credit: NOAO/AURA/NSF

NOAO Astronomer Helmut Abt turns 90

The recipient in 1952 of the first doctoral degree in astrophysics awarded by Caltech for his work on the nature of W Virginis stars, Abt has studied many topics involving stellar spectroscopy. His work established the basic properties of B-G main sequence stars and guided subsequent developments in theories of binary star formation and the dynamics of stellar atmospheres. In the 1950’s Abt helped to select the site for a national astronomical observatory by conducting an aerial site survey and exploring potential sites by Jeep, pack horse, and on foot. From 1971-1999, Abt served as Managing Editor for the Astrophysical Journal. From 1980 onward, his interest in publication practices in astronomy led to a series of papers on topics such as the relative value of smaller aperture telescopes, the productivity of astronomers as a function of age, and the half-life of astronomical publications. Read more about Abt's scientific discoveries.

April 23, 2015

Image credit: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage) and NOAO/AURA/NSF

The North America Nebula

NGC 7000 is a giant nebula in the constellation of Cygnus. Also known as the North America Nebula, this image shows only the southern tip, or the “Mexico”, part of the nebula. Emission nebula, like this one, are energized by the light from stars embedded within. The image was generated by combining data from observations in Hydrogen alpha (red), Oxygen [OIII] (green) and Sulfur [SII] (blue) filters. In this image, North is up, East is to the left.

March 12, 2015

Chiway Chang

All-women observing teams on Tololo (CTIO)

This photo was taken in the 0.9-m control room during the last night of the REU/PIA student observing run on Feb. 13, when just by chance all of the observers on the mountain were women. The group included DES observers, the DECam community observer, and the REU and PIA students. From left to right, the people in the photo are:

DECam community observer: Claudia Belardi, DES observer: Marcelle Soares-Santos, DES observer: Chihway Chang, CTIO postdoc: Catherine Kaleida, 0.9-m observer: Pia Amigo, 0.9-m observer: Sanzia Alves, CTIO PIA student: Pamela Soto, CTIO REU student: Brittany Howard

The picture first appeared on the Dark Energy Survey (DES) Facebook page, and is one of the most popular DES posts on Facebook: 11.2K people reached, 1.5K post clicks, 472 likes and shares.

February 26, 2015

March 2015
NOAO Newsletter

The March 2015 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download.

On the Cover
NOAO unveiled the first chapter of its graphic novel, “Tales of the Modern Astronomer: ANTARES Rising,” at the January 2014 American Astronomical Association (AAS) meeting to highlight the ANTARES project. The cover image for this Newsletter issue is the first panel of the graphic novel’s second chapter,“First Bytes: Dawn of the Data.” The story line for this new chapter was presented as the backdrop of the NOAO booth at the January 2015 AAS meeting. Read more starting on page 24 of this month's Newsletter.

February 09, 2015

DECam Image Quality

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

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

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.

NOAO Press Release 15-02

January 26, 2015

DESI Corrector Lens, C1, measuring 1.15m in diameter

DESI Project Delivers Major Optical Elements

The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) project has delivered major optical elements to Arizona Optical Science and L3-Brashear for figuring and polishing. Above is an image of the largest corrector lens, C1 measuring 1.15m in diameter. The homogeneity of the fused silica glass came in at an astounding 1ppm (exceeding the 3ppm spec). DESI will be conducted on the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory starting in 2018.

January 05, 2015

Image Credit: K. Olsen (NOAO/AURA/NSF), SMASH team, Roger Smith, & McClure-Griffiths

Smashing Results About Our Nearby Galactic Neighbors

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.

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.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 15-01

December 18, 2014

Image of HCG 07 credit: Dane Kleiner

Compact Galaxy Groups Reveal Details of Their Close Encounters

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

November 13, 2014

Image Credit: Reidar Hahn (Fermi Lab)

NOAO Staff on team receiving the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

The prize, for the unexpected discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed, is a shared honor with Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Riess leading a collaboration of 51 total prize recipients splitting $3 million. Significant work on this project was done at the CTIO Blanco 4-meter telescope by current NOAO staff members Chris Smith and Tom Matheson, and former NOAO employees Bob Schommer, Nick Suntzeff, Mark Phillips, and Alejandro Clochiatti along with various other current and former AURA employees.

Breakthrough Prize Announcement

September 22, 2014

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

Infant Solar System Shows Signs of
Windy Weather

NOAO astronomer Colette Salyk has led a study using ALMA that suggests that the winds around some T Tauri stars may explain their unpredictable infrared glow.

NOAO Press Release 14-07

September 09, 2014

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

HD100546 and Circumstellar Disk with Extrasolar Planet

In a recently published paper, NOAO astronomer Joan Najita was part of a team that has shown evidence for a planet forming in the disk around a young star. The results provide perhaps the first evidence that planets are surrounded by a circumplanetary disk at birth. This figure is an artist’s conception of the young massive star HD100546 and its surrounding disk. A planet forming in the disk has cleared the disk within 13 AU of the star, a distance comparable to that of Saturn from the sun. As gas and dust flows from the circumstellar disk to the planet, this material surrounds the planet as a circumplanetary disk (inset). These rotating disks are believed to be the birthplaces of planetary moons, such as the Galilean moons that orbit Jupiter.

September 03, 2014

Half of all Exoplanet Host Stars are Binaries

Imagine living on an exoplanet with two suns. One, you orbit and the other is a very bright, nearby neighbor looming large in your sky. With this “second sun” in the sky, nightfall might be a rare event, perhaps only coming seasonally to your planet. A new study suggests that this could be far more common than we realized. Read more in NOAO Press Release 14-06.

August 29, 2014

September 2014
NOAO Newsletter

The September 2014 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download. This issue includes information pertaining to the 2015A Call for Proposals, which are due September 25, 2014.

On the Cover
The cover shows an 8 × 9 arcminutes image of a portion of the Milky Way galactic bulge, obtained as part of the Blanco DECam Bulge Survey (BDBS) using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the CTIO Blanco 4-m telescope. In this image, red, green, and blue (RGB) pixels correspond to DECam’s Y, z and i filters, respectively.

The inset image shows the 2 × 3 array of monitors at the “observer2” workstation in the Blanco control room. The six chips shown here represent only 10% of the camera’s field of view.

August 07, 2014

Dr. Arlo Landolt: 55 years of Observing at the National Observatories

Dr. Arlo Landolt, Ball Professor Emeritus of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University, was recently celebrated for his 55 years of observing at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), almost all devoted to service to the astronomical community. In the summer of 1959, Dr. Landolt was the first guest observer at KPNO when the only telescope on the mountain was the 16-inch site survey telescope.

NOAO Press Release 14-05

June 23, 2014

SOAR Image Credit: M. Urzúa Zuñiga/Gemini Observatory

SOAR observations confirm a white dwarf so cool that its carbon has probably crystallized to a giant diamond

This image (left), taken in visible light at the SOAR telescope (right), shows the field of the pulsar/white dwarf pair. There is no evidence for the white dwarf at the position of the pulsar in this deep image, indicating that the white dwarf is much fainter, and therefore cooler, than any such known object. The two large white circles mask bright, overexposed stars. These results are presented in a recently published paper led by Dr. David Kaplan (UW-Milwaukee)

NOAO Press Release 14-04

May 06, 2014

T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage)

The Sky as Imaged by Travis Rector

This new image of NGC 896, a region of energetic star formation in a cloud of gas and dust, represents one of the many beautiful images that Dr. Travis Rector has produced using NOAO telescope data over the years. Rector has now released a total of 150 images; more than 100 of these can be found in the NOAO image gallery.

If all of Rector’s images were combined into a single image, it would contain more than five billion pixels – or 5 Gigapixels. Remarkably, this still covers only about 0.1% of the entire sky!

April 16, 2014

M. Newhouse & NOAO/AURA/NSF

A Sharp Eye on Southern Binary Stars

Animation demonstrating the orbit of the close binary pair Ba, Bb in the HIP 83716 Triple System. The orbit has been calculated from five observations (blue circles) taken between 2009, when the close binary was discovered by CTIO Astronomer Dr. Andrei Tokovinin and his associates from the USNO while using speckle imaging at SOAR, and 2014, the date of the most recent observation.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 14-03.

April 02, 2014

Stephen Mack & NOAO/AURA/NSF

Sakurai’s Object: Stellar Evolution in Real Time

Stellar lifetimes are measured in billions of years, so changes in their appearance rarely take place on a human timescale. Thus an opportunity to observe a star passing from one stage of life to another on a timescale of months to years is very exciting, as there are only a very few examples known. One such star is Sakurai’s Object (V4334 Sgr). First reported by a Japanese amateur astronomer in 1996 as a “nova-like object,” Sakurai’s Object had been only a few years before the faint central star of a planetary nebula.

Using the Altair adaptive optics (AO) system with the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i to compensate for distortions to starlight caused by the Earth’s atmosphere, two NOAO astronomers, Dr. Kenneth Hinkle & Dr. Richard Joyce, were able to observe the shell of escaping material around the star. Read more in NOAO Press Release 14-02.

February 26, 2014

Pete Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF

March 2014
NOAO Newsletter

The March 2014 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download. This issue includes information pertaining to the 2014B Call for Proposals, which are due March 31, 2014.

On the Cover
NOAO is embarking on a path to better serve the community in the use and analysis of big data. The cover image is the beginning panel of "Tales of the Modern Astronomer: ANTARES Rising," which tells the story of one young researcher in the near future benefiting from such development to exploit "open access to data and real-time astronomy tools" in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Era (read the full story about ANTARES in the Science Highlights section of this Newsletter). Development is starting now to establish this expertise at NOAO on behalf of the community.

February 19, 2014

Click images above to fade between images taken at different telescopes.

Astronomers at the National Observatory Continue to Watch Sn 2014J

The astronomical community was very excited by the appearance of a supernova in a relatively nearby galaxy in late January 2014. Observations of this supernova, located in the galaxy M 82, and referred to as SN2014J revealed that it is a type Ia. These occur in a binary star system composed of a dense white dwarf star and a companion star, either another white dwarf or a bloated red giant star. These supernovae are especially interesting because they provide one of the best ways to measure distances to faint galaxies, and therefore calibrate the expansion of the universe. At Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), two different teams have been observing SN2014J.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 14-01.

February 14, 2014


SAM images gravitational arcs in the Abel 370 cluster of galaxies

Nearly every "star" in this image is actually a galaxy. The SOAR Adaptive Module (SAM), built by CTIO/NOAO-S, is mounted on the SOAR 4.1 meter telescope: it creates an artificial laser guide star which enables the exquisite resolution seen here. The dark shadow on the left ( as seen in the full image) is produced by the SAM guide probe. Data were taken in September 2013 for the SAM science verification proposal by D. Caminha et al.

February 06, 2014


Supernova in M82

The recent supernova explosion (named SN2014J) in the galaxy M82 is particularly exciting because this galaxy is relatively close ("only" about 12 million light years distant). This enables astronomers to independently measure the distance of this type Ia supernova, and thus calibrate the distance to other type Ia supernovae.

The image shows SN2014J (arrow) in M82 as it was observed by the WIYN 3.5m telescope on January 28, a few days before reaching maximum brightness. The observation used WIYN’s newest camera, the One Degree Imager. The WIYN aperture and spatial resolution will be essential as the team follows the fading supernova during the months ahead.

January 07, 2014

P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF


Visit the NOAO Booth (space 520) at the AAS Meeting this week to see Tales of the Modern Astronomer: ANTARES RISING on the booth's backdrop, or, if you can't make it to the meeting, you can view it online.

December 09, 2013

P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF

Where do stars end and brown dwarfs begin?

Stars come in a tremendous size range, from many tens of times bigger than the Sun to a tiny fraction of its size. But the answer to just how small an astronomical body can be, and still be a star, has never been known. What is known is that objects below this limit are unable to ignite and sustain hydrogen fusion in their cores: these objects are referred to as brown dwarfs.

Using observations from the SOAR 4.1-m telescope and the SMARTS 0.9-m telescope at CTIO in Chile, the RECONS group from Georgia State University has found clear observational evidence for the theoretically predicted break between very low mass stars and brown dwarfs. More in NOAO Press Release 13-11.

November 21, 2013


KOSMOS has arrived at the Mayall 4-meter

The Kitt Peak Ohio State Multi-Object Spectrograph (KOSMOS) and the Cerro Tololo Ohio State Multi-Object Spectrograph (COSMOS) are nearly identical spectrographs being developed simultaneously. The position of the long slit of the spectrograph is shown superimposed on the image of the planetary nebula M 57.

November 07, 2013

T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage) and H. Schweiker (WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF)

Planetary Nebula HDW 3

This image of Hartl-Dengel-Weinberger 3 (HDW 3) was obtained with the wide-field view of the Mosaic camera on the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. The distinctive braided shape of this large, ancient planetary nebula is the result of the planetary nebula colliding with the interstellar gas around it as the nebula moves through the galaxy.

August 29, 2013

September 2013
NOAO Newsletter

The September 2013 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download. This issue includes information pertaining to the 2014A Call for Proposals, which are due September 26, 2013.

On the Cover
The cover image highlights an NOAO large survey program of galaxy clusters, using GMOS on Gemini-South. These clusters were initially identified by the South Pole Telescope (SPT): this spectroscopic survey will measure the growth of the largest structures in the Universe over time. The SPT surveys the cosmic microwave background for potential galaxy clusters, after which the GMOS survey determines velocity dispersion and mass of the clusters. This image shows six typical clusters: SPT significance maps on the left and color images from Magellan-II on the right (Bayliss et al, p.3)

July 25, 2013

K. Rhode, M. Young and WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

WIYN turns the ODI toward M51

The Whirlpool Galaxy (Messier 51) has been a popular night sky target for astronomers for centuries and has likely been targeted by virtually every telescope in the northern hemisphere. Found in the constellation Canes Venatici, M51 is a classic example of a spiral galaxy. Now, a new camera on the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory has imaged the Whirlpool Galaxy anew. The wide field of the One Degree Imager (ODI) camera makes it possible to capture the entire galaxy and its companion in one pointing, something that even the Hubble Space Telescope cannot do.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 13-09.

May 31, 2013


Fifty Years of Wide Field Studies in the Southern Hemisphere

The CTIO 50th anniversary conference has ended, and was considered a huge success—scientifically diverse and strong, and the historic talks added personality, emotion and pride to the 50th year celebration. We were pleased to have a strong attendance (3 dozen) from the local Chilean Universities, as well as scientists from Europe, Asia, South America and of course the USA. Pictured above are the conference participants. Additional Photos from the conference can be found in this online album.

May 13, 2013

J. Glaspey, P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF

A Kepler’s Dozen: Thirteen Stories about Distant Worlds that Really Exist

For centuries, humans have pondered what life on other planets beyond our solar system might be like. With the launch of the Kepler Spacecraft in 2009 we now have evidence for the widespread existence of such planets. Kepler’s discovery of hundreds of planet candidates around other stars has inspired a new book that combines both science and science fiction: A Kepler’s Dozen: Thirteen Stories about Distant Worlds that Really Exist. This anthology is co-edited by David Lee Summers (author of The Pirates of Sufiro and editor of Space Pirates) and Dr. Steve Howell (Kepler Project Scientist).

Read more in NOAO Press Release 13-05.

May 02, 2013


A Better View with Adaptive Optics into the Heart of a Globular Cluster

This image of Globular cluster NGC 6496, observed with the SOAR Adaptive Module (SAM), is about 3 arc minutes across. The enlarged sections of the cluster show the image with SOAR adaptive optics (AO) on and off, demonstrating the significant difference that sharp stellar images can make in our understanding of the properties of stars.

The typical FWHM of stellar images in Closed Loop (SAM On) and Open Loop (SAM Off) condition (averaged over the field):

Filter FWHM
Closed Loop Open Loop
B 0.48" 0.59"
V 0.43" 0.66"
R 0.32" 0.54"
I 0.31" 0.50"

Read more in NOAO Press Release 13-04 and the Astronomical Journal.

April 04, 2013

Blanco f/8 Secondary Repaired

The repair of the Blanco telescope’s f/8 secondary has been completed, and the figure of the repaired optic (shown at right) matches the measurement after it was refigured in 1993 (at left). The small circle in the center of the 2013 image represents the diameter of the repair. The repaired mirror will be returned to Chile, where the repairs to the mirror cell are underway. Initial re-integration of the cell on the telescope is scheduled for late June, with first light with the repaired mirror planned for August. Additional details on the recovery effort.

April 01, 2013

T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), T. Allen (University of Toledo) and WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Star Birth in Cepheus

Cep OB 3b is rich young cluster located in the northern constellation of Cepheus. As part of his Ph D thesis, Tom Allen (U Toledo), and a team from seven different universities, are searching for the previous generations of star formation in the region surrounding Cep OB3b, and piecing together the history of star formation in this magnificent region. The brightest yellow star near the center of the image is a foreground star, lying between us and the young cluster. The other bright stars are the massive young stars of the cluster that are heating the gas and dust in the cloud and blowing out cavities. Surrounding these massive cluster stars are thousands of smaller young stars that may be in the process of forming planetary systems.

NOAO Press Release 13-03

February 28, 2013

March 2013
NOAO Newsletter

The March 2013 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download. This issue includes information pertaining to the 2013B Call for Proposals, which are due March 28, 2013.

On the Cover
This cover presents a collage of the past, present, and future of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile in celebration of the observatory’s 50th anniversary.

February 18, 2013

Credit: Nicholas Moskovitz (MIT)

Asteroid 2012 DA14 Speeds Away from Earth

An international team led by Nicholas Moskovitz (MIT), observed the asteroid with a number of telescopes, including the 2.1m telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory: the accompanying video (600x600 pixel .gif) shows the asteroid as it was leaving the vicinity of the earth.

NOAO Press Release 13-02

February 11, 2013

Credit: John Glaspey

Miss Tohono O’odham 2013

Miss Tohono O’odham 2013 and her court visited the NOAO booth at the 75th Annual Tohono O’odham Rodeo & Fair, Feb 1-3. Shown in the picture: (L2R) Katy Garmany, Lori Allen, 1st Attendant Jaylene Wood, 2nd Attendant Raven Johnson, and Miss Tohono O’odham Nation Hon’mana Sekteoma. Jaylene Wood sang an O’odham traditional song describing an eagle soaring over Kitt Peak. See an article about the Fair in the March NOAO Newsletter.

December 04, 2012

Credit: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), WIYN ODI team & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

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.

NOAO Press Release 12-07

September 17, 2012

Credit: Dark Energy Survey Collaboration

Dark Energy Camera on the Blanco 4-m telescope at CTIO sees first light

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.

NOAO Press Release 12-04

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.

NOAO Press Release 12-03

September 03, 2012

Image Credit: Sze-leung Cheung (Hong Kong University)

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).

NOAO Press Release 12-02

August 28, 2012

September 2012
NOAO Newsletter

The September 2012 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download.

On the Cover
May's Solar Eclipse and June's Venus Transit silhouette the telescopes on Kitt Peak.

July 18, 2012

Image credit: LSST Corporation

National Science Board approves LSST project

The National Science Board has approved the LSST project, allowing the NSF Director to put the top ranked ground based initiative of the 2010 Decadal Survey in a future budget. See the NSF press release 12-137. NOAO is a founding member of the LSST collaboration working on the site, enclosure, and telescope that will be located at Cerro Pachón in Chile (shown above).

June 26, 2012

T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage) and N.S. van der Bliek (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

IC 2944 Thackeray’s Globules

This image was obtained with the wide-field view of the Mosaic II camera on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory on January 12th and February 7th, 2012. An array of dark Bok globules, known as Thackeray’s Globules, can be seen in silhouette against the emission nebula IC 2944 in the constellation Centaurus. The image was generated with observations in the B (blue), I (orange) and Hydrogen-Alpha (yellow) filters. In this image, north is up, and east is to the left. This is one of the last observations completed with the Mosaic II camera before it was decommissioned.

June 07, 2012

Photo credit: Gary Poczulp

Venus transit June 5 2012

May 04, 2012


New DECam Prime Focus Cage and Optics Installed

Left: Some last-minute tests are carried out on the new DECam prime focus cage as it stands under the disassembled Blanco 4-m telescope the night before it is installed.

Right: With the Blanco 4-m telescope locked in a vertical position and the old prime focus cage removed, the new DECam prime focus cage is winched up to the top end to be installed.

On May 3, 2012 the new prime focus cage for DECam was installed. The assembly (or “Camera”) includes the cage, hexapod, cabling, optics, and (for now) dummy imager.

Photo Gallery of Installation Images. And watch live progress on DECam Installation at the Blanco telescope.

April 16, 2012

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

The Lives of Stars, or Astronomers as Paparazzi

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.

March 04, 2012


March 2012
NOAO Newsletter

The March 2012 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download. This issue includes information pertaining to the 2012B Call for Proposals, which are due March 29th.

On the Cover
The Dark Energy Camera (DECam) is a liquid nitrogen cooled, 520-megapixel digital camera that is housed inside a high-vacuum Dewar; here, it poses in front of the CTIO Blanco 4-m telescope on which it will be mounted.

February 09, 2012

Initial Summary of the Ground-based O/IR System Roadmap Committee’s Survey of the Community Now Available

The image above is from the Ground-based System Roadmap Committee’s summary of the results from their November 2011 survey of the community’s use of the U.S. System of O/IR facilities. Shown are the US telescopes used by more than 3% of the approximate 1000 U.S. based survey respondents. The size of each ellipse represents the number of users, while the thickness of the lines between telescopes is proportional to the number of common users. Further details about this figure and the entire survey may be found on the System Roadmap Committee page.

January 12, 2012

National Science Foundation Director Visits NOAO South

On January 9 and 10, the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Subra Suresh visited NSF optical astronomy facilities in Northern Chile. The NSF group included Dr. Ed Seidel (head of Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate) and Dr. Anne-Marie Schmoltner who is a program manager in the NSF International Science and Engineering Office.

January 06, 2012


DECam Arrives!

Greg Derylo (Fermilab) confirms that the 72-CCD focal plane of the Dark Energy Camera suffered no mechanical trauma during its recent journey from Chicago to Tololo.

December 19, 2011

D. Talent, K. Don, P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF and the BRAVA Project

The Bar in the Center of the Milky Way

In a paper recently accepted for publication, Dr Andrea Kunder (CTIO) and colleagues confirm cylindrical rotation in the galactic bulge, confirming models that suggest the bulge consists of a single massive bar. The BRAVA fields are shown in this image montage. The center of the Milky Way is at coordinates L= 0, B=0. The regions observed are marked with colored circles. This montage shows the southern Milky Way all the way to the horizon, as seen from CTIO. The telescope in silhouette is the Blanco 4-meter, where the observation were made. NOAO Press Release 11-09

December 05, 2011

P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF

Ginormous Black Hole in NGC 3842 reported by Gemini Observatory

This figure shows the immense size of the black hole discovered in the galaxy NGC 3842. NGC 3842, shown in the background image, is the brightest galaxy in a rich cluster of galaxies. The black hole is at its center and is surrounded by stars (shown as an artist's concept in the central figure). The black hole is seven times larger than Pluto's orbit. Our solar system (inset) would be dwarfed by it. Nature Paper [PDF]

November 21, 2011

Animation of Asteroid NEO2008 moving across the sky

REU Student’s Work Helps to Detect Near Earth Asteroids

A program to characterize Near Earth Asteroids is being carried out at NOAO by Mark Trueblood. Last summer a student in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program, Morgan Rehnberg, developed a computer program (PhAst), available via the web, to help with this effort. NOAO Press Release 11-07

October 04, 2011

Dr. Aden Meinel

Aden Meinel, 1922-2011

Astronomy and Optical Science lost a great pioneer and innovator when Dr. Aden Meinel passed away this week. Dr. Meinel led the development, and became the first Director, of the Kitt Peak National Observatory. He then went on to become Director of the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, where he also founded the Optical Sciences program.

Dr. Meinel’s vision for the National Observatory still resounds today as Kitt Peak remains a vibrant research facility for all US astronomers.

NOAO Press Release 11-05: Aden Meinel, First Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory, Passed Away

Read more and submit your memories of Dr. Meinel

Blanco 4-m telescope on CTIO

Nobel Prize in Physics
for Accelerating Universe

The Nobel Prize in physics for 2011 has been awarded for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe. Two competing teams were honored for their discovery. Both teams used the Victor M. Blanco 4 meter telescope and the world's most powerful imagers between 1994-1998 at the NOAO Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile for the central observations that led to the discovery of distant supernovae and the acceleration of the universe. The Supernova Cosmology Project was led by Dr. Saul Perlmutter and the High z Supernova team was headed by Dr. Brian Schmidt. NOAO is particularly proud of the role our technical and scientific staff played in enabling the observations, and of our NOAO staff astronomers at CTIO and in Tucson who were on the High z and SCP teams.

NOAO Press Release 11-04: NOAO Telescopes Played Major Role in Nobel-Prize Winning Projects

Read more and submit your comments

September 29, 2011

Supernova SN2011fe in M101

M101 image: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), H. Schweiker, S. Pakzad & NOAO/AURA/NSF
Light Curve: R. Joyce, L. Allen, T. Matheson, & WIYN Consortium

Supernova SN2011fe
in M101

Left: This close-up image of the nearby galaxy M101 was obtained with the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. SN2011fe, the closest Type 1a supernova to be observed since 1972, is visible as the bright, bluish star in the lower, right portion of the image (mouse over the image to highlight). This image was obtained on September 18, 2011, about two weeks after supernova PTF11kly achieved its peak brightness.

Right: WIYN/WHIRC light curve, showing relative magnitudes in the J, H and Ks bands. Initial observation taken on August 26, 2011.

August 31, 2011


September 2011 NOAO Newsletter

The September 2011 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download. This issue includes information pertaining to the 2012A Call for Proposals, which are due September 30th.

On the Cover
This image illustrates the dome floor of the Blanco 4-m telescope with components of the f/8 handling system in the early stages of its installation for use with DECam. Other completed work includes the DECam focal-plan, which now has all 74 science-grade CCDs installed.

July 19, 2011

Galaxy-hopping stars detected in the Large Magellanic Cloud

The Milky Way’s near neighbor, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), has accreted a smattering of stars from its smaller neighbor, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). This image shows the LMC imaged by the Spitzer Space Telescope. Overlaid in red and blue, with the colors representing their line-of-sight velocities, are the stars whose origin has been traced to the SMC. These stars were discovered by a team led by NOAO astronomer Knut Olsen, through analysis of spectra obtained at the CTIO 4-m Blanco telescope. See NOAO Press Release for more details.

Spitzer image credit: Karl Gordon & Margaret Meixner

June 02, 2011

NGC3628 & NGC6888: G. Saurdiff & J. Saurdiff; M82: F. Haase, S. Peterson & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Beauty of the Universe Revealed by the WIYN 0.9m Telescope

NGC3628, an edge-on spiral about 35 million light years distant, the Crescent nebula (NGC6888, a shell of gas excited by HD192163, a Wolf-Rayet star) and M82, a peculiar galaxy at a distance of about 12 million light years.

These images were taken through B, V and hydrogen alpha filters at the WIYN 0.9m in April 2011 as part of a special Visitor Center AOP program. A few nights on the 0.9m unexpectedly became available, and Glen & Joan Saurdiff responded to this opportunity to acquire images with a research telescope using the S2KB camera. The image processing was done by Flynn Haase of the Visitor Center, telescope operation by Steve Peterson and Katy Garmany.

NGC3628 Crescent nebula M82

April 20, 2011

Søren Meibom, Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

First Results from The Kepler Cluster Study

The Kepler Cluster Study (PI: Søren Meibom, Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) is a program to search for planets around members of 4 open star clusters in the field of view of NASA’s Kepler mission, and to study the relationships between stellar rotation, age and mass. “Ground-based observations in young (~< 600 million years) open clusters, using NOAO facilities (WIYN 3.5m, the WIYN 0.9m, the CTIO Blanco 4m, and CTIO 1m), have suggested to us that a well-defined relationship exist between the rotation periods, ages, and colors of late-type stars”, says Meibom, “and that observations of such stars in older clusters can define a surface in the 3-dimensional space of rotation, color (mass), and age (figure 1, left). Now, using Kepler, Meibom and his colleagues have extended this surface to 1 billion years by measuring the relation between rotation and color for members of the open cluster NGC6811 (figure 2, right).

A paper will be published in ApJ Letters and is available on astro-ph.

March 09, 2011

In Memoriam. Victor Blanco 1918-2011. CTIO Director, 1967-1981.

It is with profound sadness and also deep sense of respect that I write this note to recognize the contributions of Victor to CTIO and, more broadly, to the generations of astronomers that have passed through CTIO, both as staff and as users of the facilities. I had the honor of overlapping with Victor briefly when I arrived at CTIO as a postdoc, but didn't get to know him well then. However, through interactions with the many people whose lives he touched, including astronomers, engineers, administrative and facilities staff, I've grown to understand the depth of his impact on CTIO and the “Tololino culture”. His leadership set CTIO on a solid course as a world-leading facility, both in its technical achievements and its culture of close teamwork and pride in the work that is done. That leadership was combined with a father-like quality for the staff, which firmly established the familial atmosphere that persists to this day at CTIO.

- Dr. Chris Smith, Director CTIO

New York Times Obituary

See additional comments and leave your own memories

Victor M. Blanco

March 04, 2011

Andrei Tokovinin, Jayadev Rajagopal, Luciano Fraga, and SAM Team/NOAO

March 2011 NOAO Newsletter

The March 2001 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download.

About the cover image: Against a background of Eta Carina, taken with the SOAR Adaptive Module in Natural Guide Star mode (clockwise from top left): The SOAR telescope on Cerro Pachón, the SOAR Adaptive Module (SAM), the Spartan Infrared Camera, and the Goodman High Throughput Spectrograph.

January 25, 2011

Dark Energy Camera

Life is busy at the Blanco 4-m telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory right now. This is a bird’s eye view of the dome floor during the early stages of the installation of the f/8 handler for use with the Dark Energy Camera, DECam. Click the image to see popup descriptions of the various items in the picture.

Image Credit: Tim Abbott NOAO, CTIO.

November 24, 2010

Full Moon over Kitt Peak

Above: The full moon rises over Kitt Peak on October 23, 2010. Taken by Alfredo Zazueta just south of Little Tucson, Arizona.

Right: The full moon, as imaged during commissioning by the new Mosaic 1.1 imager using the 4-m telescope on Kitt Peak.

October 28, 2010

J. Glaspey, P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF

New Planet over Kitt Peak

This composite image taken at Kitt Peak National Observatory outlines the Kepler satellite field of view, and within it, a circle marks the location of the faintest Kepler Mission host star yet, a G8 dwarf star harboring a 1.12 Jupiter-size exoplanet in a 3.9 day orbit. (reported by Howell et al in the Astrophysical Journal) Ground-based confirmation of this planet involved three different telescopes on Kitt Peak: the 2.1-meter, the 4-meter and the WIYN telescope.

About the picture:
The sky was photographed using a diffraction grating (Glaspey): spectra are visible on either side of the bright stars, the telescopes were imaged separately (Marenfeld) and later combined with the sky image.

September 30, 2010

B. Billar, M. Liu & NICI Campaign Team (left); J. Lomberg & Gemini Observatory (right)

An unusual Brown Dwarf

As part of the Gemini South NICI Planet-finding campaign, Beth Biller and team have found an unusual star-brown dwarf pair. PZ Tel A, a young sun-like star, was imaged with NICI (Near-Infrared Coronagraphic Imager) using adaptive optics to detect the brown dwarf (PZ Tel B), which is in a highly elliptical orbit. Specialized image analysis techniques were used to remove a vast majority of light from PZ Tel A in this image (left). This is one of few brown dwarfs imaged at a distance closer than 30 Astronomical Units from its parent star. On the right the range of sizes of a brown dwarf compared to Jupiter and the Earth (to scale) is illustrated.

Results are being published in ApJ letters 2010 ApJ 720 L82.

August 31, 2010

September NOAO Newsletter on line and ready to download

This image of NGC 6334 was produced with the NOAO Extremely Wide-Field Infra-Red Mosaic camera (NEWFIRM) during commissioning on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at CTIO. See the Newsletter cover image for more details.

Please note that with Newsletter 102 NOAO and NSO have begun separate publications. NSO will shortly offer its own publication.

June 08, 2010


Thor’s Helmet: an interstellar bubble

The central star is HD 56925, a massive Wolf-Rayet star nearing the end of its lifetime, which is responsible for the wind sweeping through the surrounding molecular cloud. Also listed as NGC 2359, this image was obtained at CTIO by the PROMPT consortium. When not chasing gamma-ray bursts, PROMPT serves a wide variety of users, including Star Shadows Remote Observatory (SSRO), a group of astrophotographers. This image was captured using broadband and narrowband filters: the blue-green color is oxygen emission.

May 12, 2010

Image Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/AURA/NSF/Univ. of Toledo

NEWFIRM, Herschel Find Hole in Space

NEWFIRM, an infrared camera now installed on the CTIO Blanco 4- meter, imaged NGC 1999 at the KPNO Mayall 4-m before going to the southern hemisphere. Here a combination of infrared filters from NEWFIRM (blue) and from the ESO Herschel Space Observatory (green and red) show the region around the triple star known as V380 Orionis, near the top of the image. Previously thought to be an opaque cloud, the dark region now appears to be a cavity in the dense gas and dust — a hole in space carved out by a jet from one of the young stars in the V380 Ori system.

More information is available from Caltech, NASA and ESA.

April 19, 2010

NEWFIRM arrives at CTIO!

Counterclockwise from top; Leaving KPNO, Arriving at CTIO, NEWFIRM camera hoisted to Blanco main floor, NEWFIRM undergoing a major filter change and thorough internal inspection in the new CTIO clean room, Guider assembled into the truss

March 24, 2010


History of Iolkam Du’ag and the Birth of Kitt Peak National Observatory Celebrated

Dr. Aden B. Meinel, the first Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory,  and Bernard Siquieros, Education Curator of the Tohono O’odham Nation’s Cultural Center and Museum  spoke jointly to an overflow public audience on March 22. See NOAO Press Release.

February 25, 2010

March NOAO/NSO Newsletter is now on line!

With Issue 101 we will begin producing only two issues a year, in March and September. Additionally, we are changing the section organization to make the Newsletter more useful and informative to our readers.

February 15, 2010

Sidney Wolff

Dr. Sidney Wolff
Honored at Chilean Dedication

The groundbreaking for the viewpoint Vista Sidney Wolff took place on February 1, 2010 on the road to the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile. The site features a beautiful view of the SOAR and Gemini telescopes and also of the site selected for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). The construction of the vista point is a tribute to Dr. Sidney C. Wolff's leadership in enabling the construction of these world-class facilities on Cerro Pachon high in the Andes mountains. Dr. Wolff served as President of the SOAR Board and first Director of the Gemini Observatory. The Press release can be read here.

January 15, 2010

Symposia Coming
March 2010

Two symposia will take place in Tucson during the month of March, 2010. From First Light to Newborn Stars happens from March 14-17, followed by The Eventful Universe March 17-20. On March 17th both symposia will meet together for talks by our distinguished invited speakers (including Vera Rubin, Nick Suntzeff, Heather Morrison, Charlie Lada, and Alan Dressler) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Observatory. Please go to the link above to register for either symposium.

December 18, 2009

NOAO/NSO Newsletter December 2009

This special celebratory issue marks the establishment of the National Observatory 50 years ago with the dedication of Kitt Peak National Observatory, providing open access based on peer review to forefront scientific capabilities. It also marks the 100th issue of the NOAO/NSO Newsletter.

November 30, 2009

NEWFIRM Discovery of Warm Molecular Hydrogen in the Wind of M82

Galaxy-scale outflows of gas (“superwinds”) are a ubiquitous phenomenon in both starburst galaxies and those containing an active galactic nucleus but the contribution from dust and molecular gas is largely unknown. (Left) “Pure”, continuum-subtracted, H2 emission on a false-color scale. (Right) Two-color image of the H2 filaments (in red) extending more than 3 kpc above and below the plane of the galaxy (shown in blue). See NOAO News for more information.

November 03, 2009

Herbig Haro object HH110

Image of H2 (red, from NEWFIRM, Kitt Peak National Observatory), and Hα (green, from the Hubble Space Telescope archive) of the Herbig Haro object HH 110. In a study to appear in Nov 10 2009 ApJ, Pat Hartigan and collaborators show how, under the right conditions, collimated supersonic jets in laboratory experiments provide a means to study their astrophysical counterparts.

October 12, 2009

White House Star Party

Two NOAO astronomers, Dr. Dara Norman and Dr. Stephen Pompea, at the White House Star Party on Wednesday, Oct 7. The event, attended by local middle school students, was designed to promote science literacy. Telescopes on the White House lawn were focused on Jupiter, the Moon and select stars; interactive dome presentations; and hands-on activities. Dara and Steve had the honor of meeting President Obama and his family, and showing them objects through their telescopes. Dara also shared SPECTRUM, the newsletter of the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy.

Steve demonstrated the Galileoscope, created for the International Year of Astronomy. This new, high-quality telescope kit for students enables kids to learn how to do science, making the same observations that Galileo made 400 years ago.

September 23, 2009

IC 5067, Pelican Nebula

IC 5067, a star forming region in Cygnus, is also sometimes called the Pelican Nebula. This image was taken May 24, 2009 by Gregor Rothfuss, a first time visitor to the Kitt Peak Advanced Observing Program, with the help of Kitt Peak Visitor Center operator Flynn Haase. They used the VC 20-inch RC telescope with an SBIG STL-6303E camera and AstroDon LRGB filters. Exposures were 120:40:40:40 respectively. This was Mr. Rothfuss’s first experience doing CCD imaging. The Kitt Peak Visitor Center program, which receives no financial support from the observatory, offers paying guests the opportunity to do their own observing and imaging.

G. Rothfuss, S. Byers, F. Haase and NOAO/AURA/NSF

August 18, 2009

NSF Commits New Funds for ReSTAR

New funds allocated for ReSTAR by the NSF will provide immediate access to the Palomar 200-inch telescope, fund a copy of the OSMOS optical spectrograph for the Mayall 4-m and more. Read about this and more in the latest edition of NOAO Currents.

July 13, 2009

Kitt Peak Then and Now

Composite image showing a view of Kitt Peak looking north from near the location of the 0.9-m dome. Left: a re-discovered image from Dr. Aden Meinel taken during his first visit to the summit while scouting potential sites for the National Observatory. Right: image by Dr. John Glaspey from April 2009, shows the changes that have taken place in the last 50 years.

June 09, 2009

NOAO/NSO Newsletter
June 2009

This issue includes an article by Andrei Tokovinin about speckle interferometry at the SOAR telescope. Short-exposure images of a 1.08" binary star were co-added with re-centering on the global centroid (left), or on the brightest pixel, selecting the sharpest 10 percent of images (right). This latter technique, dubbed “lucky imaging”, is gaining popularity .

June 03, 2009

Former NOAO Director shares 2009 Gruber Cosmology Prize

Former NOAO Director Jeremy Mould (at left on Kitt Peak), professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne School of Physics, Australia joins Wendy Freedman (top right), director of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Pasadena, California, USA and Robert Kennicutt (bottom right), director of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in England as the recipients of the 2009 Cosmology Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation.

M. Hanna and NOAO/AURA/NSF, and The Gruber Foundation

May 18, 2009

WHIRC Eyes M42,
The Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula seen with the infrared eyes of the WIYN High Resolution Infrared Camera (WHIRC) in the emission lines of HeI (1083 nm; blue), FeII (1644 nm; green), and H2 (2122 nm; red).

D. Riebel (JHU), M. Meixner (STScI) and NOAO/AURA/NSF

April 21, 2009

The Medusa Nebula

This Mayall 4-m image of the Medusa Nebula was released during the "Around the World in 80 Telescopes" webcast held from April 3-4, 2009. View the recorded segment from KPNO.

T. A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage and NOAO/AURA/NSF

April 06, 2009

NGC 6520
with Barnard 86

This Blanco 4-m image of NGC 6520, and nearby dustcloud Barnard 86, was released during the "Around the World in 80 Telescopes" webcast held from April 3-4, 2009. View the recorded segment from CTIO.

T. A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage and NOAO/AURA/NSF

March 13, 2009

GLOBE at Night
March 16-28, 2009

The “GLOBE at Night” citizen-science campaign has reached 10,000 contributed measurements during its 13 day campaign this year in March! Find out more at the GLOBE at Night web site.

March 09, 2009

Elusive Binary Black Hole System Identified

Finding a needle in a haystack might be easy compared to finding two very similar black holes closely orbiting each other in a distant galaxy. Astronomers from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson have found what looks like two massive black holes orbiting each other in the center of one galaxy.

P. Marenfeld and NOAO/AURA/NSF

March 03, 2009

NOAO/NSO Newsletter
March 2009

This issue highlights science being done with telescopes available through the broader "System" of telescope access, and includes articles on new and upcoming instruments for SOAR in Chile and WIYN on Kitt Peak.

LeEllen Phelps, NSO/AURA/NSF

February 24, 2009

SPARTAN Infrared Camera commissioning

This image of R136, the massive star cluster at the center of the 30 Doradus nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud was taken on Spartan’s second commissioning run on the SOAR telescope.

E. Loh & J. Baldwin, MSU

February 20, 2009

Galileoscopes are
ready to order!

NOAO astronomer and U.S. IYA Project Director Stephen Pompea shows off the “Galileoscope” student telescope kit in Paris. Orders are now being taken.

January 29, 2009

NOAO at the IYA2009 Opening Ceremonies

NOAO astronomer and U.S. IYA Project Director Stephen Pompea shows off the “Galileoscope” student telescope kit at IYA opening ceremonies at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. More about NOAO and IYA2009…

December 23, 2008

Frank Kelley Edmondson
August 1, 1912—December 8, 2008

Professor Edmondson was one of the major players in the creation of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and the National Observatory. More…

Indiana University

December 16, 2008

Big Galaxy Collisions Can Stunt Star Formation

A deep new image of the Virgo cluster has revealed monumental tendrils of ionized hydrogen gas 400,000 light-years long connecting the elliptical galaxy M86 and the disturbed spiral galaxy NGC 4438. More…

Tomer Tal and Jeffrey Kenney/Yale University and NOAO/AURA/NSF

December 02, 2008

NOAO/NSO Newsletter #96, December 2008

December 2008 NOAO/NSO Newsletter |  This issue includes articles on a NEWFIRM large-scale survey, science highlights from several NOAO Survey Programs, and a report from NOAO Director David Silva on “Strategy, Tactics, and Budgetary Results.”

Image credit: R. Gutermuth (FCAD/Smith College), E. Allgaier (University of Toledo) and NOAO/AURA/NSF

November 18, 2008

Artist's conception of the multiple planet system.

Gemini Releases Historic Discovery Image of Planetary “First Family” |  Astronomers using the Gemini North telescope and W.M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea have obtained the first-ever direct images identifying a multi-planet system around a normal star. The Gemini images allowed the international team to make the initial discovery of two of the planets in the confirmed planetary system. For more, including additional images, see the Gemini Press Release.

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory Artwork by Lynette Cook

October 30, 2008

LSST  Mirror Blank being lifted into position

LSST Mirror Lifted |  The 8.4-meter mirror blank for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) has been successfully lifted from the furnace hearth at the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, installed into a turning ring, and tilted to a vertical position. It is now ready for core cleanout, which will reduce its mass from 46,500 kg to 16,600 kg. The mirror is scheduled to be completed in January 2012, and will be the largest two-surface optical mirror ever made from a single substrate.

Image credit: Jeffrey S. Kingsley/UA Steward Observatory

October 07, 2008

M86-NGC4438 complex

Big Galaxy Collisions Can Stunt Star Formation |  A deep new image of the Virgo cluster has revealed monumental tendrils of ionized hydrogen gas 400,000 light-years long connecting the elliptical galaxy M86 and the disturbed spiral galaxy NGC 4438. Taken with the wide-field Mosaic imager on the National Science Foundation’s Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, this Hydrogen-alpha image and related spectroscopic measurements of the filament provide striking evidence of a previously unsuspected high-speed collision between the two galaxies, creating enough heat to slow down and even stop star formation in the galaxy. For more, see NOAO Press Release PR-0807.

Image Credit: Tomer Tal and Jeffrey Kenney/Yale University and NOAO/AURA/NSF

September 15, 2008

Artist's rendering of the explosion

Probing a New Type of Stellar Explosion |  A U.S. astronomer using the Gemini South and Blanco telescopes in Chile has added a startling new clue to the ongoing mystery over the "engine" of the historical 1843 outburst of Eta Carinae, a bright star in the southern skies. The new observations by Nathan Smith of the University of California, Berkeley, reveal faint but extremely fast material indicative of a powerful shock wave produced by the 1843 event, suggesting that its driving mechanism was an explosion rather than a steady wind. The result is featured in the September 11, 2008 issue of the journal Nature. For more, see the Gemini Press Release.

September 03, 2008

NOAO/NSO Newsletter #95, September 2008

September 2008 NOAO/NSO Newsletter |  This issue includes articles on building the ReSTAR system, 2009A Observing Proposal deadlines and available instruments (including classical observing with Gemini), a science highlight on light echoes of galactic supernovae, and a follow-up report on the GSMT Chicago workshop.

Image credit: Gemini Observatory

August 20, 2008

Dr. R. Chris Smith

Chris Smith Named Director of Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory |  Dr. R. Chris Smith has been selected as the next director of Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO). Smith will succeed Dr. Alistair Walker in November. Walker will return to the scientific staff of CTIO after five years as director. NOAO Press Release 08-06

July 29, 2008

ALTAIR (Access to Large Telescopes for Astronomical Instruction and Research) telescope montage

ALTAIR Seeks Community Input |  The ALTAIR (Access to Large Telescopes for Astronomical Instruction and Research) committee, recently convened by NOAO, seeks to understand the needs of the US community related to ground-based O/IR telescopes in the 6.5- to 10-m aperture range. We ask you to respond to the ALTAIR committee survey regarding your current and future anticipated use of such facilities, including Gemini.

July 22, 2008

Dr. Pierre Martin

New Director of the WIYN Observatory |  Astronomer Pierre Martin, director of science operations at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), has been selected as the new director of the WIYN Observatory, which operates 3.5-meter and 0.9-meter telescopes on Kitt Peak.

Starting September 22, Martin succeeds George Jacoby, who will return to the scientific staff of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). For more, see WIYN Press Release.

July 14, 2008

Supernova Remnant SN 1006

A Multiwavelength View of Celestial Fireworks |  Around May 1, 1006 A.D., observers from Africa to Europe to the Far East witnessed and recorded the arrival of light from what is now called SN 1006, a tremendous supernova explosion caused by the final death throes of a white dwarf star. This image of SN1006 is a composite of optical, radio, and X-ray data of the full shell of the supernova remnant. The optical data was obtained at the University of Michigan’s 0.9-meter Curtis Schmidt telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. H-alpha, continuum-subtracted data were provided by FrankWinkler (Middlebury College) et al. The object has an angular size of roughly 30 arcminutes (about the size of the full Moon), and a physical size of 60 light-years, based on its distance of nearly 7,000 light-years. Hubble News Release

Image Credit—Radio: NRAO/AUI/NSF GBT+VLA (Dyer, Maddalena and Cornwell, NRAO); X-ray: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/G. Cassam-Chenai and J. Hughes et al.; Optical: F.Winkler/Middlebury College and NOAO/AURA/NSF; and DSS

July 03, 2008

Interacting Spiral Galaxies NGC 5426 and 5427

Siamese Twin Galaxies in a Gravitational Embrace |  In what appears to be a masterful illusion, astronomers at Gemini Observatory have imaged two nearly identical spiral galaxies in Virgo, 90 million light years distant, in the early stages of a gentle gravitational embrace. The new image was obtained at the Gemini South telescope in Chile using GMOS, the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph.

Like two skaters grabbing hands while passing, NGC 5427 (the nearly open-faced spiral galaxy at lower left) and its southern twin NGC 5426 (the more oblique galaxy at upper right), are in the throes of a slow but disturbing interaction-one that could take a hundred million years to complete.

Image Credit: Gemini Obseratory

June 25, 2008

Dark Energy Camera Lens

Huge Lenses for Dark Energy Camera |  UK astronomers have reached a milestone in the construction of one of the largest-ever cameras designed to detect the mysterious component of the Universe known as Dark Energy.  The pieces of glass for the five unique lenses in the Dark Energy Camera have been shipped from the US to France to be shaped and polished into their final form. The largest of the five is one meter in diameter, making it one of the largest lenses in the world.  The camera will be placed on NSF’s Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile to conduct a project called the Dark Energy Survey (DES), as well as other observations for the astronomical community.  DES observations will start in 2011 and continue until 2016.

For more, see

Image credit: UK STFC

June 19, 2008

The southern planetary nebula SuWt 2

White Dwarf Lost in Planetary Nebula |  Call it the case of the missing dwarf. A team of stellar astronomers is engaged in an interstellar crime scene investigation. They have two suspects, traces of assault and battery, but no corpse. The southern planetary nebula SuWt 2 (seen in this color image taken with the 1.5-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile) is the scene of the crime, some 6,500 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Centaurus.  For details, see Hubble Press Release.

Image credit: NASA, NOAO, H. Bond and K. Exter (STScI /AURA)

June 02, 2008

Omega Centauri Radiant in Infrared

NOAO/NSO Newsletter number 94 |  The June 2008 NOAO/NSO Newsletter includes articles on the new ALTAIR committee on large telescopes, a science highlight and operational report from the NEWFIRM infrared imager at Kitt Peak, and the results from a survey of the community on their use of the Gemini Observatory.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/NOAO/AURA/NSF

May 19, 2008

Gemini North at sunset

NOAO Currents Issue 3 |  Read about the results of our Gemini Opportunity survey of the community, which showed great interest in increased US participation in Gemini. This issue of Currents also explains the need for active involvement by the community in the Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope project, as we move toward public-private GSMT partnerships.

May 05, 2008

GLOBE at Night 2008 resukts map

GLOBE at Night 2008 Reaches 62 Countries |  The international star-hunting activity known as GLOBE at Night, led by the NOAO educational outreach group, inspired 6,838 measurements of night-sky brightness by citizen scientists around the world, including 660 digital measurements using handheld sky-quality meters.

The third edition of GLOBE at Night was held from February 25-March 8. Just over 4,800 of the measurements came from the United States (with 48 states and the District of Columbia reporting at least one measurement). Observers in Hungary submitted the most measurements (380) from outside the U.S., followed by Romania, the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, and Spain, all with over 100 observations. For more, see NOAO Press Release 08-05.

April 24, 2008

Dr. David Silva, incoming director of NOAO

David Silva Selected as New Director of NOAO |  The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) has selected Dr. David Silva as the new director of NOAO. Silva brings a wide variety of experience to this appointment, from his current duties as Observatory Scientist for the Thirty Meter Telescope project to past responsibilities for data management and user support at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Germany. During a prior tenure at NOAO from 1991 to 1996, Silva served as project manager during the commissioning of the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope on Kitt Peak, and as a staff astronomer in the U.S. office of the Gemini Observatory. Silva is scheduled to formally start work as director on July 7.

Image credit: Thirty Meter Telescope

April 09, 2008

Illustration of a black hole in the Omega Centauri Star CLuster

Spectacular Star Cluster May Host Black Hole Missing Link |  The well-known naked-eye star cluster Omega Centauri may be home to an elusive intermediate-mass black hole, according to observations made with the Gemini Multi-object Spectrograph (GMOS) at Gemini South in Chile and the Hubble Space Telescope.  A new study by astronomers Eva Noyola (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics) and Karl Gebhardt (University of Texas, Austin) found non-luminous matter at the center of Omega Centauri with roughly 40,000 times the mass of the Sun.  This result could lead to an understanding of how such intermediate black holes might evolve into the larger supermassive ones found at the cores of many galaxies; it also suggests that Omega Centauri may once have been a dwarf galaxy.

For more, see the Gemini Observatory Web site.

Illustration Credit: Lynette Cook for Gemini Observatory

April 02, 2008

Glass for the LSST primary and tertiary mirrors is loaded into the mold

LSST Mirror Passes High Fire |  The LSST primary/tertiary mirror experienced a successful “high fire” over the weekend of March 28-29, reaching a peak temperature of approximately 1165°C (2125°F).  The LSST mirror will now anneal and cool gradually to room temperature over the next 100 days in the slowly rotating oven at the UA Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, and will be removed in mid-August to begin grinding and polishing.

Image credit: R. Bertram/Steward Observatory and LSST Corporation

March 19, 2008

Glass for the LSST primary and tertiary mirrors is loaded into the mold

LSST Mirror Ready to Fire |  More than 51,000 pounds of glass has been loaded into the mold for the primary and tertiary mirrors for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Inset pictures show employees from the University of Arizona Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory placing the first pieces of glass into the mold. The glass will be melted and then spun inside the rotating oven to create the 8.4-meter mirror.

Image credit: R. Bertram/Steward Observatory and LSST Corporation

March 13, 2008

graph demonstrating the presence of water and organic molecules in a protoplanetary disk

Astronomers Find Organics and Water Where New Planets May Grow |  John Carr of the Naval Research Laboratory and Joan Najita of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory developed a new technique to measure and analyze the chemical composition of the gases within protoplanetary disks using the infrared spectrograph on the Spitzer Space Telescope. They discovered large amounts of simple organic gases and water vapor in a possible planet-forming region around the infant star AA Tauri, which they report in the March 14 issue of Science magazine. Spitzer Press Release 08-02

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Naval Research Laboratory

March 03, 2008

The Orion constellation as seen over the Mayal 4-meter Telescope on Kitt Peak

GLOBE at Night 2008 Going Strong |  This dark-skies awareness activity led by NOAO and the GLOBE Program has drawn more than 5,500 measurements from citizen-scientists all over the world since it began on February 25. Get out before March 9 and look up at the constellation Orion (seen here over the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory) to add to the growing database!

Image credit: J. Glaspey and NOAO/AURA/NSF

For more, see the GLOBE at Night web site.

February 19, 2008

Montage of images from the Currents Newsletter

Introducing NOAO Currents |  Intended as a sparkplug for communication between NOAO and our community, this new electronic newsletter provides updates—and solicits community input—on NOAO observing opportunities and NOAO programs and policies on a more rapid timescale than is possible with the quarterly NOAO-NSO Newsletter. The first issue includes articles on ReSTAR, Gemini, and supernova spectroscopy.

January 31, 2008

Pickering's Trinagle in the Veil Nebula

Double-Wide Image of Pickering’s Triangle |  A new wide-field image of Pickering’s Triangle taken with the National Science Foundation’s Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory was released recently at the 211th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. This nebula is part of the Cygnus Loop supernova remnant, which includes the famous Veil Nebula. It is located about 1,500 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. Astronomers estimate that the supernova explosion that produced the nebula occurred between 5,000 to 10,000 years ago; the entire shell stretches more than six full Moons in width across the sky. NOAO Press Release

Image Credit: T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, H. Schweiker and NOAO/AURA/NSF

January 11, 2008

An artist's concept of the accretion disk around the binary star 
system WZ Sge

Dark Matter Discovered in Accretion Disks |  Suggests Major Revisions to Concepts of Disk Structure and Luminosity. Observations of the interacting binary star using telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that the disks of hot gas that accumulate around a wide variety of astronomical objects—from degenerate stars in energetic binary systems to supermassive black holes at the hearts of active galaxies—are likely to be much larger than previously believed. Released at the 211th AAS Meeting in Austin. NOAO Press Release 08-02

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

January 03, 2008

LSST telescope, with mirror facing out

LSST Receives $30 Million from Charles Simonyi and Bill Gates |  The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Project is pleased to announce receipt of two major gifts: $20 million from the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences and $10 million from Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Under development since 2000, with work on the telescope design and site being led by NOAO, the LSST is a public-private partnership. These two gifts enable the fabrication of the three large mirrors required for LSST — the first stages of production for the two largest are beginning now at the Mirror Laboratory at the University of Arizona. LSST Press Release [pdf]

Image Credit: LSST Corporation

December 21, 2007

International Year of Astronomy

2009: The International Year of Astronomy |  The 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations has proclaimed 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy. An initiative of the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO, IYA 2009 is focused completely on public outreach and science education, and includes significant leadership roles for NOAO PAEO staff. For more on the emerging US and international plans, see and

November 29, 2007

Illustration of colliding planet embryos

Cosmic Cannonball |  Astronomers have discovered one of the fastest-moving stars ever seen, using a combination of data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the international ROSAT satellite, and the 0.9-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. A team observed a neutron star known as RX J0822-4300 over a period of about five years. During that span, three Chandra observations clearly show the neutron star moving away from the center of the Puppis A supernova remnant and the stellar debris field created during the same explosion in which the neutron star was formed, about 3,700 years ago. By combining how far the neutron star has moved across the sky with its distance from Earth, astronomers determined the star is moving at more than 3 million miles per hour. NASA Release

Image Credit: Chandra: NASA/CXC/Middlebury College/F.Winkler; ROSAT: NASA/GSFC/S.Snowden et al.; Optical: NOAO/AURA/NSF/Middlebury College/F.Winkler et al.

November 15, 2007

Illustration of colliding planet embryos

Colliding Planet Embryos in Famous Star Cluster |  A team of US-led astronomers used the Gemini North 8-meter telescope to find evidence for the formation of young rocky planets around the star HD 23514 located in the well-known Pleiades (Seven Sisters) star cluster, which is easily visible in the current evening sky. Joseph Rhee (UCLA) and his collaborators used the infrared camera Michelle to measure heat from hot dust surrounding a 100 million year-old star in the bright cluster, one of the very few solar-type stars known to be orbited by warm dust particles. For more, see Gemini Press Release.

Illustration credit: Gemini Observatory/Lynette Cook

November 05, 2007

Comet 17P/Holmes

Comet Holmes from Kitt Peak |  This image of the freshly expanding cloud of gas and dust around Comet 17P/Holmes was taken at the Kitt Peak Visitor Center observatory on November 2. The comet, which orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, is located in the constellation Perseus and can be seen in the northeast night sky with unaided eyes.

Image credit: F. Haase, S. Kaur and NOAO/AURA/NSF

October 30, 2007

Comet 17P/Holmes

Comet Holmes from Kitt Peak |  This image of the freshly expanding cloud of gas and dust around Comet 17P/Holmes was taken with the WIYN 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory on the night of October 29, 2007. The image was taken by a group including a teacher and students from the NOAO Astronomy RBSE program. The comet, which orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, is located in the constellation Perseus and can be seen in the northeast night sky with unaided eyes.

Image credit: K. Garmany, T. Rutherford, V. Wynn, B. Redmon and WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

October 17, 2007

exceptionally massive black hole in orbit around a huge companion star in the nearby galaxy M33

Most Massive Stellar Black Hole |  Astronomers have located an exceptionally massive black hole in orbit around a huge companion star in the nearby galaxy M33. The mass of the black hole, known as M33 X-7, was determined to be 15.7 times that of the Sun. This result, published in the journal Nature, has intriguing implications for the evolution and ultimate fate of massive stars. Data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Gemini North, and the 2.1-meter and WIYN 3.5-meter telescopes at Kitt Peak were combined to make this discovery, which includes contributions from NOAO astronomer Lucas Macri regarding the precise distance to M33. For more, see Chandra Press Release.

Image credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

September 24, 2007

Orphan Stars Found in Long Galaxy Tail

Orphan Stars Found in Long Galaxy Tail |  Astronomers have found evidence that stars have been forming in a long tail of gas that extends well outside its parent galaxy, using a combination of images in X-ray light from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and optical light from the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope in Chile. This comet-like tail of newborn stars extends more than 200,000 light years, and suggests that such "orphan" stars may be much more prevalent than previously thought. For more, see Chandra Press Release.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MSU/M.Sun et al; H-alpha/Optical: SOAR (MSU/NOAO/UNC/CNPq-Brazil)/M.Sun et al.

September 03, 2007

Google Earth NOAO Showcase

View the NOAO Showcase: Local Group Galaxies in Google Earth.

August 28, 2007

Milky Way Rising over Cerro Tololo

Milky Way Rising |  The Milky Way rises above Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory and the Blanco 4-meter telescope in this 30-second exposure taken with a Canon 1D Mark IIN digital camera and a 15mm fisheye lens.

Image Credit: K. Don and NOAO/AURA/NSF

August 07, 2007

Giant Galaxy Cluster CL0958+4702

Monster Galaxy Pileup |  Astronomers have combined data from the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope on Kitt Peak and NASA’s Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes to identify one of the biggest collisions of galaxies ever observed. Four large galaxies have been spotted in the process of tangling and, ultimately, merging into single gargantuan galaxy five billion light-years from Earth.
Yale Press Release | Spitzer Press Release

July 17, 2007

SN1999em in NGC 1637

Major Award for Dark Energy Discovery |  NOAO astronomers Chris Smith and Tom Matheson, and former scientific staff members Nicholas Suntzeff, Mark Phillips and Robert Schommer, have been awarded the prestigious Gruber Cosmology Prize as contributors to two scientific teams who simultaneously discovered the "crazy" phenomenon of the accelerating expansion of the Universe, known since by the name dark energy. For more info on the roles of NOAO staff and telescopes, see this article in the September 2006 NOAO/NSO Newsletter. Gruber Foundation Press Release

Image of SN1999em in galaxy NGC 1637.

July 11, 2007

Alambre fire respose

Alambre Fire Response

July 06, 2007

Tohono O’Odham Horse Camp on Kitt Peak

Horses & Stars At Kitt Peak |  The Tohono O’odham Boys & Girls Club of Sells held its annual horse camp this year at the Kitt Peak picnic grounds from June 22-24, including a star party one evening (lower right) presented by volunteers from NOAO and the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. Three dozen kids and a dozen adults participated.

Image credit: J. Kennedy and NOAO/AURA/NSF

June 19, 2007

Science Foundation Arizona, Hands-On Optics, and RBSE logos

Science Foundation Arizona Awards |  NOAO’s educational outreach programs recently received two of nine “K-12 Student & Teacher Discovery Program” grants from Science Foundation Arizona. The Hands-On Optics program was awarded $225,000 to expand its offerings to several rural locations throughout southern Arizona. The Research Based Science Education program was awarded $125,000 to enable math/science teachers to have research experiences in astronomy and image processing, and then implement these high-tech topics in their classrooms through a new initiative called Building Information Technology Skills (BITS) Through Astronomy. Science Foundation Arizona Press Release [pdf]

June 05, 2007

Disturbing News in the Large Magellanic Cloud

June 2007 Newsletter |  The new NOAO-NSO Newsletter includes articles on the renewal of KPNO and CTIO as recommended by the NSF Senior Review, recent spectroscopic results from Gemini, the new ReSTAR committee on the science case for a small and mid-sized telescope system, and “Disturbing News in the Large Magellanic Cloud” [see image] from Knut Olsen and Phil Massey.

May 30, 2007

Map of Tucson, AZ

Classic and Digital Versions of GLOBE at Night Thrive in 2007 |  The GLOBE at Night 2007 citizen-science campaign generated nearly double the number of measurements of the world’s dark (and not so dark) skies compared to its first year. The program also successfully demonstrated a prototype digital data-collection effort that aims to grow to a global scale by 2009 during the International Year of Astronomy. For more see NOAO Press Release 07-07, released this week at the AAS meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii.

May 17, 2007

NGC 1333

NGC 1333 |  This image of the nearby star-forming region NGC 1333 was released in honor of the retirement celebration for Stephen Strom, a two-time staff member of the U.S. national observatory who has led a multifaceted life in astronomy, public policy, and the arts. For more, see NOAO Press Release 07-06.

May 14, 2007

Kitt Peak Visitor Center with star trails

Stars & Music |  Saturday, May 19, come to Kitt Peak, watch the sunset and then enjoy an hour of chamber music by the Tucson Jr. Strings Quartet. When the music ends and the stars have come out, attend an hour-long star party and view celestial wonders through a variety of amateur telescopes. More information on the Visitor Center’s May events page.

May 07, 2007

TSIP Telescopes: KECK, HET, MMT, Magellan

TSIP Call for Proposals |  Letters of Intent to propose for the 2007 Telescope System Instrumentation Program funding cycle are due May 11, 2007. See the TSIP web site for the current Program Announcement and Proposal Solicitation.

May 03, 2007

Hot Wiring the Transient Universe poster

Hot-wiring the Transient Universe: A Joint VOEvent & HTN Workshop |  
May 4 is the registration deadline for this conference in Tucson to be held from June 4-7. The interdisciplinary agenda covers technology, methods and experimental design for the detection and rapid follow-up observations of celestial transients, as well as data fusion to create knowledge about the underlying astronomical phenomena.

April 27, 2007

Carina Nebula

NGC 3372 |  This fresco painting-like image of the Carina Nebula was made by combining numerous images in Hydrogen-alpha light from the ACS instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope with color data from CTIO taken by Nathan Smith.

For more, see The Carina Nebula: Star Birth in the Extreme

April 23, 2007

Nova Shell Around Z Camelopardalis

GALEX Finds Link Between Big and Small Stellar Blasts |  Proof that certain double-star systems can erupt in full-blown explosions and then continue to flare up with smaller bursts has been spotted by the ultraviolet eyes of NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer, with help from data including narrowband images taken at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

For more, see

April 17, 2007

Kitt Peak Visitor Center

Astronomy Day, 2007 |  Come to Kitt Peak National Observatory on Saturday, April 21st, to celebrate Astronomy Day, an annual celebration since 1973. The Kitt Peak Visitor Center will host a series of presentations covering various aspects of astronomy by professional and amateur astronomers, along with hands-on activities and solar telescope viewing of the Sun.

April 02, 2007

Spiral Galaxy NGC 2442

NGC 2442 |  This image of a distorted barred spiral galaxy located 50 million light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Volans was taken in early 2007 by the SSRO/PROMPT telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. For more information, see Star Shadows Remote Observatory.

Image Credit: SSRO/PROMPT

March 27, 2007

WIYN One Degree Imager

WIYN telescope to get innovative billion-pixel, $6.6 million camera |  BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A telescope used by Indiana University astronomers and their colleagues at Kitt Peak National Observatory is about midway through a major improvement — the addition of a new kind of camera that will allow scientists to record the telescope's entire exceptionally wide field of view for the first time. For more, see Indiana University Press Release.

Image Credit: WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF

March 22, 2007

Dr. Buell T. Jannuzi

Jannuzi Named Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory |  Astronomer Buell T. Jannuzi has been named to five-year term as the director of Kitt Peak National Observatory. Buell joined the NOAO scientific staff in Tucson in 1995. His main scientific interests are the formation and evolution of galaxies, the large-scale structure of the Universe, and the physical processes that produce active galactic nuclei. For more, see NOAO Press Release 07-05.

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

March 19, 2007

GLOBE at Night data map

GLOBE at Night 2007 Passes 2006 Count! |  Worldwide measurements for GLOBE at Night 2007 have now exceeded the 4,591 measurements reported in the first global dark skies campaign 2006, with more than 5,000 measurements by citizen-scientists from 61 countries now being reported at the public Web site! Data collection for 2007 ends on March 21. For more, see NOAO Press Release 07-04.

Image Credit: ESRI, GlobeXplorer

March 15, 2007

Unobscured AGN in Bootes Field

NOAO Deep-Wide Data Helps Capture Black Hole Evolution |  Astronomers using data from the NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey have captured an image of more than a thousand supermassive black holes. These results give astronomers a snapshot of a crucial period when these monster black holes are growing, and provide insight into the environments in which they occur.

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Hickox et al.; Infrared: NASA/JPL/Caltech/P.Eisenhardt & D.Stern et al.; Optical: NOAO/B.Jannuzi & A.Dey et al.

March 09, 2007

GLOBE at Night data map

GLOBE at Night 2007 is Underway! |  There have been more than 2446 observations from 51 countries since the start of GLOBE at Night 2007 on March 8! This international star-counting activity comes in two flavors: the “classic” GLOBE at Night exercise that anyone can have fun doing with their unaided eyes, and a new effort to obtain precise measurements of urban dark skies using digital sky-brightness meters. For more, see NOAO Press Release 07-04.

Image Credit: C. Mayhew & R. Simmon (NASA/GSFC), NOAA/ NGDC, DMSP Digital Archive

March 02, 2007

��������������������������������������������������High Spectral Resolution in the Mid-IR with TEXES on Gemini

NOAO/NSO Newsletter number 89 |  High Spectral Resolution in the Mid-Infrared with TEXES on Gemini, as illustrated by the above image, is one of the Science Highlights from the March 2007 issue of the NOAO/NSO Newsletter. Other stories include NEWFIRM first light, a progress report on how NOAO is implementing the Senior Review, and a new section on the NOAO Data Products Program.

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory

February 21, 2007

Spiral Galaxy IC 342

IC 342 |  This beautiful new image of spiral galaxy IC 342 that takes advantage of the dark night sky at Kitt Peak National Observatory was released last week in Washington, DC, at the opening of “The Night: Why Dark Hours Are So Important,” a two-day symposium hosted at the Carnegie Institution. More in NOAO Press Release 07-03.

Image Credit: T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, H. Schweiker/WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF

February 12, 2007

Becklin-Neugebauer-Kleinman-Low (BNKL) Nebula

NEWFIRM Sees First Light |  The BNKL Nebula in the constellation Orion was one of the first targets of the initial science verification runs for the NOAO NEWFIRM infrared imager at the Mayall 4-meter telescope. This image is a portion of one full image, selected to show the fine detail that is already apparent.

Image Credit: J. Bally (U. Colorado), J. Walawender (U. of Hawaii), R. Probst & F. Valdes and NOAO/AURA/NSF

February 05, 2007

Aerial view of Kitt Peak National Observatory

The NOAO Users Committee has submitted their 2006 report [119 KB PDF].

Image Credit: M. Hanna and NOAO/AURA/NSF

January 31, 2007

Comet McNaught over Cerro Pachón

Comet McNaught |  as seen from Cerro Pachón on 20 January 2007, with planet Venus and the Moon at lower right, and the Gemini South telescope.

Credit: Joao Santos

January 23, 2007

Circular fisheye lens image of Gemini North

Second Conference on Gemini Science Results |  Register now for the Gemini Science 2007 meeting to be held June 11-13 in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil.

Circular fisheye lens image of Gemini North, with the Milky Way above. Credit: Gemini Observatory

January 17, 2007

Dark nebula Barnard 163

Barnard 163 |  This dark nebula that lies within IC 1396 was imaged with the Mosaic-1 imager on the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Dr. Travis Rector explains how this image was created in this video podcast recorded at the recent AAS meeting in Seattle.

Image Credit: T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, H. Schweiker/WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF

January 08, 2007

Artist's concept of interacting binary polars

Interactive Binaries Show Signs of Induced Hyperactivity |  Astronomers studying highly energetic binary stars called polars have obtained the first observational evidence that the intense magnetic fields produced by the white dwarf half of the interacting pair can induce flares, sunspots and other explosive activity in its otherwise low-wattage, low-mass partner. NOAO Press Release 07-01

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

December 28, 2006

SOAR Telescope

SOAR Science in 2007 |   About 27 nights of observing time on the SOAR 4.1-meter telescope in Chile are expected to be available to the U.S. community in 2007B through the NOAO observing time allocation process. For more, watch the NOAO Proposal Information page.

Image Credit: M. Urzúa Zuñiga/Gemini Observatory

December 21, 2006

Seasons Greetings

Happy Holidays from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

Image of the Small Magellanic Cloud taken at CTIO. Credit: F. Winkler/Middlebury College, the MCELS Team, and NOAO/AURA/NSF

December 04, 2006

December 2006 NOAO/NSO Newsletter cover

The December 2006 NOAO/NSO Newsletter |   includes articles on the NSF Senior Review report and our response, Gemini science in the mid infrared, new partnerships at CTIO, first light for the QUOTA imager at WIYN, and more.

November 16, 2006

Artist's rendition of new stars

Twenty New Stars in the Neighborhood |  Astronomers have identified 20 new stellar systems in our local solar neighborhood, including the twenty-third and twenty-fourth closest stars to the Sun. When added to eight other systems announced by this team and six by other groups since 2000, the known population of the Milky Way galaxy within 33 light-years (10 parsecs) of Earth has grown by 16 percent in just the past six years. Data taken with the SMARTS telescopes at CTIO. NOAO Press Release 06-14

Image Credit: Zina Deretsky/National Science Foundation

November 09, 2006

Spiral Galaxy M83 from the SINGG survey

NOAO Annual Report |  The cover of the FY 2006 NOAO Annual Report [1.7 MB pdf] features this image of M83, taken by the SINGG Survey Team. The report details scientific research, observatory developments, new programs, and educational/public outreach activities for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2006. A pdf of the appendices is also available [957 KB].

Image Credit: Gerhardt Meurer (JHU), the SINGG Survey Team and NOAO/AURA/NSF

November 06, 2006

Composite image of the McMath  Pierce Solar telescope silhouetted against the Sun with Mercury transiting across (from May 7, 2003)

Mercury Transit Live from Kitt Peak |  On November 8, 2006, starting at 12:12 p.m. local MST in Tucson, Arizona, the planet Mercury began its transit across the face of the Sun, as seen from Earth. The National Science Foundation’s Kitt Peak National Observatory and the Exploratorium joined forces to present a live view of the 5 hour transit both on the mountain and via webcast.

October 31, 2006

Gemini North view of comet Tempel 1 as it was impacted by Deep Impact

Creative Comet Missions |  NOAO Astronomer Emeritus Michael Belton is a member of the science teams for two new NASA Discovery Program mission studies - one proposal would send the Deep Impact spacecraft onward to Comet Boethin in December 2008; the other would send the Stardust spacecraft to Comet Tempel 1 to observe the crater left there by Deep Impact's explosive earlier visit in 2005, which was observed widely from Kitt Peak, SOAR and Gemini North (see image).

For more, see the NASA Announcement of Discovery Program Selections.

October 19, 2006

NOAO Van parked in front of the Boys & Girls club in Sells, AZ

Hands-On Optics in Sells |  The NOAO Hands-On Optics team has established ongoing programs at the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Tucson and Sells (photo). For more, see the the Public Affairs and Educational Outreach section [721 KB pdf] of the September 2006 Newsletter.

October 13, 2006

3rd System Workshop

Strategy for Instrumentation |  The 3rd Community Workshop on the Ground Based O/IR System takes place November 16-17 at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort.

Illustration credit: P. Marenfeld NOAO/AURA/NSF

September 28, 2006

NGC 253, The Sculptor Galaxy

NGC 253, The Sculptor Galaxy |  This image of spiral galaxy NGC 253 was taken with the National Science Foundation’s Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Image credit: T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, T. Abbott and NOAO/AURA/NSF

September 20, 2006

Artist's rendering of extremely cold T-type brown dwarf

NOAO-Spitzer Synergy |  Data from the NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey and the MARS optical spectrometer on the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak were combined with observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope to help astronomers discover an extremely cold T-type brown dwarf. Spitzer Release

Artwork credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC/Caltech)

September 14, 2006

Galilean Moons and Jupiter

Belton Symposium |  The deadline for submitting poster abstracts to the Belton Symposium: "Journey Through the Solar System" (November 10-11 in Tucson) has been extended until October 20.

August 31, 2006

NOAO Newsletter cover featuring the adaptive optics laser guide star system on Gemini North

September 2006 Newsletter |  The new NOAO/NSO Newsletter includes articles on new and renewed Kitt Peak partnerships with Clemson University and the University of Maryland, updates on the Blanco and SOAR telescopes, and information on observing opportunities for semester 2007A, with proposals due October 2.

August 24, 2006


NEWFIRM Passes Key Tests |  The optical system for the NOAO Extremely Wide-Field Infrared Imager (NEWFIRM) instrument passed a major milestone on August 14 with highly successful optical bench tests for alignment and on-axis focus. NEWFIRM is on track to see first light in 2007.

Image Credit: R. Probst and NOAO/AURA/NSF

August 09, 2006

Messier object 78

M78 |  This image of star-forming region M78 in Orion was taken recently with the Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak.

Image Credit: T. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, H. Schweiker and NOAO/AURA/NSF

August 03, 2006

Artist's rendition of the Destiny spacecraft

NASA Funds Destiny |  NOAO astronomer Tod Lauer is the leader of a team selected by NASA to further develop Destiny, the Dark Energy Space Telescope, a small spacecraft that would detect and observe more than 3,000 supernovae to measure the expansion history of the Universe. For more, see NOAO Press Release 06-10.

Image Credit: NASA/GSFC

July 26, 2006

Cosmic reionization viewed at a redshift of 9.3

Cosmic Reionization |  The box shows the distribution of neutral hydrogen (maroon) and ionized hydrogen (light blue) around the most energetic star-forming sources (yellow dots) in the very early universe (a redshift of 9.3). This image is a frame from an animation that illustrates the Science Nugget article in the second TMT Newscast.

Image Credit: Nick Gnedin/Fermilab

July 18, 2006

Kids working on optics activities

Hands-On Optics |  The Hands-On Optics program run by NOAO educational outreach, SPIE and the Optical Society of America has spent part of the summer conducting informal science education activities for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Sells and South Tucson.

See here for more information on the project, or contact

July 11, 2006

Interacting Galaxies NGC 1512/10

Interacting Galaxies from SINGG |  This image from the Survey for Ionization in Neutral Gas Galaxies (SINGG), an NOAO Survey Program, shows a strong interaction between the barred spiral NGC1512 and its Blue Compact Dwarf companion, NGC1510. This pair (imaged with the CTIO 1.5-meter telescope) illustrate how galaxy interactions are able to trigger starbursts. Several new images from SINGG have been added to the NOAO Image Gallery.

June 28, 2006

Calotte dome - 3D cutaway view

Debut of Thirty Meter Telescope “Newscast” |  With the successful completion of the project’s Conceptual Design Review, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has a science vision, technical requirements, a thoroughly reviewed design and a powerful team carrying the work forward. A new electronic newsletter, edited at NOAO, will keep you informed about the latest project happenings. Click here to see the first issue and subscribe.

June 15, 2006

Gemini Probes the Center of Andromeda Galaxy |  Two studies featured at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Calgary, Canada, bring into focus the core and evolution of our nearest large galaxy neighbor. Extremely sharp adaptive optics images of the center of M31 taken by a team led by Knut Olsen of NOAO allowed the analysis of thousands of individual stars, which indicates a long-stable environment around the galaxy’s core. Gemini Release

June 01, 2006

June 2006 Newsletter cover image of TMT Site Testing on Cerro Tolonchar in Chile

June 2006 Newsletter |  The new NOAO/NSO Newsletter includes articles on the selection of Cerro Pachón in Chile for the LSST, the TMT Conceptual Design Review, and an update on the Tohono O’odham Nation, the NSF, VERITAS and Kitt Peak.

May 17, 2006

Cerro Pachón showing SOAR, Gemini South and the newly chosen LSST site

Cerro Pachón Chosen for LSST | Cerro Pachón, an 8,800-foot (2,682-meter) mountain peak in northern Chile, has been selected as the site for the proposed Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). The mountain is already home to the Gemini South telescope and the SOAR telescope. LSST Press Release

Image credit: C. Claver, NOAO/LSST

May 12, 2006

Patch commemorating  Kitt Peak and Stamp commemorating Cerro Tololo

The NOAO Long Range Plan for 2006-2010 has been published. Highlights include our continued involvement in the development of large telescopes (LSST and GSMT), as well as creating ways to access the large amount of data that will be generated (DPP and NVO).

May 04, 2006


Just Look at Jupiter |  The giant planet is in opposition this month, and the Kitt Peak Visitor Center is highlighting this chance to see it large in the night sky with an event called "Just Look at Jupiter!"

On Saturday, May 20, Adam Showman of the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab will give a presentation, followed by observations of Jupiter (and other deep space objects) with the 20-inch RC telescope in the Visitor Center observatory.

For more information, contact

Image Credit: Jeff Hapeman/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

April 21, 2006

Skull Nebula

A Shocking Skull of Gas |  A new Gemini Observatory image of NGC 246, nicknamed the "Skull Nebula," shows what can happen as the outer atmosphere of a fast-moving, dying star similar in composition to the Sun (in several billion years) pushes through its local cloud of interstellar gas and dust.

For more, see the Gemini Release.

Credit: Gemini South GMOS/Travis Rector University of Alaska Anchorage

April 13, 2006

Eta Carinae

A Spectacular Show From A Convulsing Massive Star |  New high-resolution measurements of the famous massive star Eta Carinae using the NOAO-built Phoenix infrared spectrograph on Gemini South show that the star's bipolar nebula is the result of an aspherical explosion during its mid-19th century outburst, as opposed to the nebula being “pinched” by surrounding material.

For more, see the Gemini Release.

April 04, 2006


NGC 281 |  This image is a wide-field view of the star-forming region NGC 281 taken with the WIYN 0.9-meter at Kitt Peak National Observatory. It is featured as the ground based image for this Hubble Heritage Image Release.

Image Credit: T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage and WIYN/AURA/NSF

March 28, 2006

High school student making observations for GLOBE at Night

“GLOBE at Night” Data Accepted Until April 7 |  Active observing ends on March 31, but dark-sky data will be accepted at the GLOBE at Night programfor another week. NOAO is a major co-sponsor of this international public outreach activity, which has involved more than 12,200 people and 3,600 observations (and counting) from across the world.

Image Credit: david sanders / Arizona Daily Star

March 16, 2006

Artist’s rendering of the binary dwarf pair as viewed in infrared light

Magnificent Failures: Brown Dwarf Pair Measured by Gemini Observations |  A team of astronomers led by Keivan Stassun of Vanderbilt University has used the Gemini South telescope and NOAO’s high-resolution infrared spectrograph Phoenix to uncover the dynamics of a pair of eclipsing brown dwarfs. The observations enabled the team to directly weigh and measure the brown dwarfs (often called “failed stars” for their intermediate mass between planets and stars). The Gemini data complemented data the team gathered from Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololo.

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/Jon Lomberg Illustration

March 06, 2006

March 2006 Newsletter cover image of Magellanic Clouds

March 2006 Newsletter |  The new NOAO/NSO Newsletter includes articles on a variety of science results from the Magellanic Clouds, the commissioning of the NIFS spectrograph at Gemini North, the new NOAO NVO Portal, the SOAR telescope, and the future of imaging at WIYN.

February 24, 2006

NOAO NVO Portal page

The NOAO NVO Portal |  The NOAO Data Products Program has unveiled a new Web-based tool to discover, access, and analyze astronomical imaging data from public archives. This effort is part of a larger program to provide the community with simple, consistent, astronomer-friendly interfaces to the tools and resources of the National Virtual Observatory (NVO).


February 08, 2006

Artist concept of circumbinary disk

Spitzer Reveals Unexpected Disks Around Interacting Stars |  This artist concept illustrates new Spitzer Space Telescope observations of an unusual class of interacting binary stars that emit excess amounts of infrared radiation, suggesting that these odd objects are surrounded by large disks of cool dust.

The results were produced by one of six teams of professional astronomers and high school teachers participating in a unique program co-sponsored by the Spitzer Science Center and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). NOAO Press Release 06-04

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

February 03, 2006

Dr. Sidney Wolff

NOAO Astronomer Sidney Wolff Awarded Education Prize by American Astronomical Society |  The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has awarded its 2006 Education Prize to Dr. Sidney Wolff, an astronomer and former director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona.

The AAS Education Prize recognizes outstanding contributions to the education of the public, students and/or the next generation of professional astronomers. NOAO Press Release 06-05

January 26, 2006

Artist Concept of Vega

Rapidly Spinning Star Vega has Cool Dark Equator |  Strong darkening observed around the equator of Vega suggests that the fifth brightest star in Earth’s sky has a huge temperature difference of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit from its cool equatorial region to its hot poles. Jason Aufdenberg of NOAO led a team using the CHARA array on Mount Wilson to obtain this result. NOAO Press Release 06-03.

Credit: J. Aufdenberg and NOAO/AURA/NSF

January 11, 2006

Artist Concept of young star with planetary companion

ET Discovers Young Star with Planetary Companion |  A team led by a University of Florida astronomer has discovered a planet orbiting a star about 100 light-years from Earth. The star is just 600 million years old, one of the youngest stars ever found with a planetary companion. The discovery was made at Kitt Peak National Observatory with a new interferometric instrument called the Exoplanet Tracker (ET) that promises to greatly expand the efficiency of searches for new exoplanets. NOAO Image Release 06-01.

Credit: P. Marenfeld and NOAO/AURA/NSF

January 09, 2006

Artist Concept of light echo geometry

Flashes from the Past: Echoes from Ancient Supernovae |  A team led by astronomers from CTIO has found faint visible echoes of three ancient supernovae by detecting their centuries-old light as it is reflected by clouds of interstellar dust hundreds of light-years removed from the original explosions. The oldest one is likely to have occurred more than six hundred years ago. More in NOAO Press Release 05-12.

Additionally, the team has used the Gemini South telescope in Chile to obtain a detailed spectrum of an echo of light from an ancient supernova that enables them to identify the original star’s cause of death. More in NOAO Press Release 06-02.

Credit: P. Marenfeld and NOAO/AURA/NSF

December 28, 2005

Artist Concept of Light Echoes

Flashes from the Past: Echoes from Ancient Supernovae |  A team led by astronomers from CTIO has found faint visible echoes of three ancient supernovae by detecting their centuries-old light as it is reflected by clouds of interstellar dust hundreds of light-years removed from the original explosions. The oldest one is likely to have occurred more than six hundred years ago. NOAO Press Release 05-12

Credit: P. Marenfeld and NOAO/AURA/NSF

December 14, 2005

Galaxy Mergers

Galaxy Mergers |  More than half of the largest galaxies in the nearby universe have collided and merged with another galaxy in the past two billion years, according to a new study using hundreds of images from two of the deepest sky surveys ever conducted.

The idea of large galaxies being assembled primarily by mergers rather than evolving by themselves in isolation has grown to dominate cosmological thinking. However, a troubling inconsistency within this general theory has been that the most massive galaxies appear to be the oldest, leaving minimal time since the Big Bang for the mergers to have occurred. NOAO Press Release 05-11

Credit: P. van Dokkum/Yale University and NOAO/AURA/NSF

December 02, 2005

M31, the Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy |  M31 is the nearest spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way, located a mere 2.2 million light-years distant. The Local Group Galaxies Survey team used the Mosaic camera on the Kitt Peak Mayall 4-meter telescope to investigate M31’s substantial population of young, massive stars over a very large field of view. Each of the squares in the image, featured on the cover of the December, 2005 NOAO Newsletter, is half a degree on a side, about the size of the full Moon.

Credit: Phil Massey (Lowell Observatory), Knut Olsen and Mark Hanna (NOAO/AURA/NSF), and the Local Group Galaxies Survey Team

November 17, 2005

Saturn and Titan

The Ringed Planet |  Coming up in January, Saturn will be at opposition, appearing at its largest in the skies of Earth.

This image of Saturn and its moon Titan (lower right) was taken during the Kitt Peak Advanced Observing Program, using a set of stacked images from a Web cam on the Kitt Peak Visitor Center 20-inch telescope.

Credit: Kevin Bays and NOAO/AURA/NSF

October 19, 2005

Tarantula Nebula

The Tarantula Nebula |  In this giant star-forming region, also called 30 Doradus, energy from hot, young stars creates dramatic voids and filaments in the surrounding gas.

The nebula is located 160,000 light-years distant in the southern constellation Dorado, within the galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud. This image was taken with the Curtis Schmidt telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, as part of the Magellanic Cloud Emission Line Survey (MCELS) project.

Credit: S. Points, C. Smith, R. Leiton, C. Aguilera and NOAO/AURA/NSF

October 11, 2005


Mysterious Disk of Blue Stars Around Black Hole in M31 |  A team of astronomers including NOAO scientists have used the Hubble Space Telescope to identify the source of a mysterious blue light surrounding a supermassive black hole in our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy (M31). The strange light has puzzled astronomers for more than a decade. Hubble Press Release

Infrared image of the Andromeda Galaxy taken with the Mayall 4-meter telescope at KPNO.

Credit: T. Lauer (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

September 27, 2005

Deep wide-field image of the Virgo Cluster

Virgo Cluster from Kitt Peak |  Over the course of 14 dark nights at Kitt Peak National Observatory, more than 70 images of the Virgo galaxy cluster were taken by the Case Western Reserve University’s 24-inch Burrell Schmidt telescope. Advanced image processing techniques were used to combine the individual images into a single image capable of directly revealing for the first time a vast, complex web of intracluster starlight between the galaxies. Case Press Release

Image Credit: Chris Mihos

September 15, 2005

GRB 050904

GRB 050904 |  Fulfilling one of its central operational goals in a big way, the SOuthern Astrophysical Research Telescope (SOAR) on Cerro Pachón in Chile made the first observations of the glowing remains of the most distant explosion ever seen in the Universe. The international telescope then provided the first accurate measurement of just how incredibly far away this explosion appears to be.

Image Credit: Dr. Daniel Reichart

September 06, 2005

Orion Nebula in Mid-infrared

Orion Nebula in Mid-infrared |  A unique wide-field view of the Orion Nebula in the mid-infrared, from Gemini South, is featured on the cover of the September 2005 NOAO/NSO Newsletter. This image reveals new details about the preferred locations and inferred lifespans of newborn planetary systems in the nebula. Other topics in the Newsletter include submissions to the NSF Senior Review, new partnership opportunities, and semester 2006A proposal information.

Image Credit: Nathan Smith/University of Colorado and Gemini Observatory

August 30, 2005

Galaxy Cluster Abell 3266

Galaxy Cluster Abell 3266 |  This image of galaxy cluster Abell 3266 was taken using the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) instrument on the Gemini South telescope on Cerro Pachón, Chile, in July 2005. The image was obtained by the NOAO Fundamental Plane Survey team as part of follow-up observations in support of their spectroscopic data from Kitt Peak National Observatory and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. NOAO Press Release 05-08

Image Credit: Michael Hudson and Russell Smith (University of Waterloo) and Gemini Observatory

August 11, 2005

Antares Region

Antares Region |  Starlight illuminates wispy clouds of dust above the star Antares in this image mosaic from the Kitt Peak Advanced Observing Program. Globular cluster M4 can be seen to the right of the bright star.

Image Credit: Jay Ballauer/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

July 27, 2005

Supernova in M51

Supernova in the Whirlpool Galaxy |  High school teachers making observations with the research telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory as part of the Teacher Leaders in Research Based Science Education (TLRBSE) workshop obtained some of the earliest multicolor imaging and spectra of a newly exploded massive star in a nearby galaxy. Read more in NOAO Press Release 05-07.


July 18, 2005

Galaxy NGC 1275

NGC 1275 |  This image shows a deep Hydrogen-alpha image of the brightest X-ray source in the sky, NGC 1275, taken by the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, AZ. The filaments emanating from this galaxy likely are the result of an interaction between the black hole in the center of the galaxy and the intracluster medium surrounding it.

Image Credit: C. Conselice/Caltech and WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF.

July 07, 2005

Comet Tempel 1 trail

Comet Trail |  On the night of the Deep Impact event, many hundreds of images were taken of comet Tempel 1 at the Kitt Peak Visitor Center Observatory. In the almost two hours of time that elapsed during that imaging, the comet's position changed against the background stars. When all of the images of this motion are added together, the resulting streak of light is shown in the image above. Starting from the left, the comet was its natural brightness. The streak brightens significantly in the middle, immediately after impact of the probe! A full size version of the above image and more are available on our Deep Impact page.

Image Credit: NOAO/AURA/NSF.

July 05, 2005

Comet Tempel 1 animation

Before and After |  The blinking image above are two images of Tempel 1 about 20 minutes before and after the Deep Impact probe impacted the comet. These images of were taken using the Kitt Peak Visitor Center’s 20in Ritchey-Chretien telescope (RCOS) and an SBIG ST10XME CCD camera. A full size version of the above animation as well as a time-lapse animation are available on our Deep Impact page.

Image Credit: NOAO/AURA/NSF.

July 01, 2005

Comet Tempel 1 animation

Comet Tempel 1 Animation |  How can you watch the planned first-of-its-kind collision between a comet and a spacecraft from Earth this weekend, even if your night skies don’t allow a direct view? The Visitor Center at Kitt Peak National Observatory plans to offer a live feed of the encounter between NASA’s Deep Impact mission and Comet Tempel 1 starting this Sunday night (local time), running about an hour before the planned 10:52 p.m. PDT impact though about 45 minutes afterward. The feed will consist of still images of the distant comet, and a frequently updated movie assembled from the individual frames, similar to the animation above (imaged on the night of June 14-15, 2005). More in NOAO Press Release 05-06.

June 16, 2005

faint optical remnant of Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB) 050607

Gamma Ray Burst |  This image of a faint optical remnant of Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB) 050607 was obtained by James Rhoads (Space Telescope Science Institute) using the Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak in the early morning hours of June 7, 2005. Rhoads suspended his science program and got “on source” on the GRB just 10 minutes after an alert was issued on the burst being detected by NASA’s Swift satellite. See here for more information:

June 03, 2005

False color image of the solar chromosphere

Solar Chromosphere |  The cover of the June, 2005 NOAO/NSO Newsletter features this false color image of the dynamic solar chromosphere, taken on 18 January 2005. Daily images like this one, made with the new SOLIS vector spectromagnetograph, have been obtained with various instruments on Kitt Peak for 31 years. The June Newsletter contains articles on a new roadmap for optical-infrared astronomy, related partnership opportunities at NOAO, and recent Gemini science instrument productivity.

Image Credit: NSO/AURA/NSF.

May 18, 2005

Van den Bergh 93

Van den Bergh 93 |  Curtains of gas and dust open dramatically to reveal the inner area of this starforming region. The unceremoniously named bright star SAO 152320 shines with intense light in the center of this field. Clouds of gas glow strongly and dust shrinks quickly under its radiative prowess. This vista lies some 4,000 light years away toward the constellation Monoceros. This is a portion of a much larger nebula called Gum 1.

Image Credit: Bill Uminski and Cyndi Kristopeit/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

May 06, 2005

Strategies for Evolution of U.S. Optical/Infrared Facilities cover image

Strategies for Evolution of U.S. Optical/Infrared Facilities |  The draft report of the O/IR Long Range Planning Committee is available for community review and input until May 15.

See the O/IR Long Range Planning Committee web page for more information and to download a draft report.

April 16, 2005

Two images of Centaurus A galaxy

Colliding Galaxies in the Visible and Infrared |  These images show two views of the active galaxy Centaurus A—in visible light from Cerro Tololo and in infrared light from two instruments aboard the NASA-JPL Spitzer Space Telescope. For more details, see the Image Gallery page.

Image Credit:
Visible—Eric Peng, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics and NOAO/AURA/NSF
Infrared—Jocelyn Keene, NASA/JPL and Caltech

April 05, 2005

Wildflowers at the Base of Kitt Peak

At the Base of Kitt Peak |  The winter rains were plentiful in 2004-2005, giving rise to a beautiful display of wildflowers along the road to Kitt Peak. A number of telescopes are visible in the background of this image from March 2005, including the Mayall 4-meter telescope at the peak of the mountain.

Image Credit: Copyright © 2005, Kenneth W. Don

March 25, 2005

Open star cluster M7

M7 |  This open star cluster in the constellation Scorpius is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Milky Way. At 800-1000 light years away, M7's 80-odd stars are spread over some 20-25 light-years and are in excess of 200 million years old. This image of M7 was taken during the Advanced Observing Program.

Image Credit: Allan Cook/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

March 10, 2005

New details observed in dusty disk surrounding nearby star Beta Pictoris

NOAO-NSO Newsletter |  The March 2005 NOAO-NSO Newsletter contains articles on the pending NSF Senior Review, observing opportunities in Semester 2005B, the Gemini WFMOS instrument concept, and the WIYN One-Degree Imager.

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory, University of Florida/C. Telesco and AURA

March 01, 2005

Hidden galaxy exposed by the Spitzer Space Telescope

Exposing Dusty Galactic Hideouts |  How do you hide something as big and bright as a galaxy? You smother it in cosmic dust. Researchers used data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey to uncover a hidden population of monstrously bright galaxies approximately 11 billion light-years away. Spitzer Press Release 2005-08

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

February 10, 2005

Two views of the Trifid Nebula

Star Birth in the Trifid Nebula |  Visible light images from NOAO telescopes (left) have been used by scientists from the Spitzer Science Center to help them better understand dozens of massive embryonic stars in the Trifid Nebula (M20), which were discovered in images from two instruments aboard the Spitzer Space Telescope (right). JPL Press Release 2005-014

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Rho (SSC/Caltech)

January 31, 2005

A computer-generated model of Regulus based on CHARA data.

Portrait of a Star on the Edge |  NOAO Astronomer Steve Ridgway is part of a team that used the CHARA array on Mount Wilson to make detailed measurements of the physical properties of Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. They found that Regulus’ frenetic spin gives the star a grossly bulging mid-section; its equatorial diameter is one-third larger than its north-south diameter. The star’s axis of rotation happens to point in the same direction as its motion through the galaxy—meaning Regulus zips along like an enormous, spinning bullet. NSF press release

Image Credit: Wenjin Huang, CHARA, Georgia State University

January 11, 2005

3D Rendering of the LSST

LSST |  A current rendering of the 8.4-meter Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) which will use a special three-mirror design, creating an exceptionally wide field of view. The LSST Corporation has awarded a $2.3 million contract to the University of Arizona Steward Observatory Mirror Lab to purchase the glass and begin engineering work for the 8.4-meter diameter main mirror that will enable the LSST to survey the visible sky in only three nights. LSST press release

Image Credit: LSST Corporation

January 02, 2005

Galaxy NGC 6946

Galactic Fireworks |  Like the annual New Year’s fireworks display, astronomers at Gemini Observatory are ushering in 2005 with a striking image that dazzles the eye with stellar pyrotechnics. In this new image, the face-on spiral galaxy NGC 6946 is ablaze with colorful outbursts fueled by the births and deaths of multitudes of brilliant, massive stars.

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory /Travis Rector, University of Alaska Anchorage

December 24, 2004

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays! |  The staff of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory wishes you all the best this holiday season.

December 20, 2004

Several images of Saturn's Moon, Titan showing mid-lattitude clouds

New Clouds Add to Titan’s Mystery |  Using adaptive optics on the Gemini North and Keck II telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i, a U.S. team has discovered a new phenomenon in the atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon Titan. Unlike previous observations showing storms at the south pole, these new images reveal atmospheric disturbances at Titan’s temperate mid latitudes—about halfway between the equator and the poles. Read the Gemini Press Release.

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory.

December 13, 2004

Comet C/2004 Q2 (Machholz)

Comet C/2004 Q2 (Machholz) |  Discovered just this past summer, Comet Machholz continues to brighten toward being visible with the unaided eye in both the northern and southern hemispheres. This image was taken at the Kitt Peak Visitor Center Observatory on December 11, 2004.

Image Credit: A. Block, NOAO/AURA/NSF.

December 02, 2004

N11 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

N11 in the Large Magellanic Cloud |  This image of the massive N11 complex is featured on the cover of the December 2004 NOAO Newsletter. Numerous star forming regions and shells blown out by supernovae and strong stellar winds can be seen. The data used to create the image were taken with the University of Michigan Curtis Schmidt telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory near La Serena, Chile, as part of the Magellanic Clouds Emission Line Survey (MCELS).

Image Credit: Sean Points, Chris Smith and Mark Hanna, NOAO/AURA/NSF.

October 22, 2004

Enlarged portion of the 9.3 square degree Boötes survey field

NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey |  The third data release (DR3) from the NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey (NDWFS) is now available. This release includes all the Mosaic-1 optical and ONIS K-band imaging of the 9.3 square degree Boötes survey field. Catalogs of objects detected in the images are also provided. The images can also be obtained via the NOAO Science Archive.

October 05, 2004

Close-up view of the EF Eridanus system as it might appear today

Mystery Object Neither Star Nor Brown Dwarf |  Astronomers including Steve Howell of NOAO-WIYN have used the Gemini North and Keck II telescopes to peer inside a violent binary star system to find that one of the interacting stars has lost so much mass to its partner that it has regressed to a strange, inert body resembling no known star type. Gemini Press Release

Illustration credit: Jon Lomberg/Gemini Observatory

September 27, 2004

Size of Mira stars compared to size of inner Solar System

Mira stars, red giant variables that have been studied for 400 years, are generally half as large in diameter as had been believed, thanks to an opaque shell of water vapor and other molecules that surrounds them. A team including Steve Ridgway of NOAO used the IOTA interferometer on Mount Hopkins, AZ, to make this discovery. Read more in the Astronomy and Astrophysics press release, Forseeing the Sun’s Fate.

Illustration credit: Journal Astronomy & Astrophysics

September 08, 2004

Stephan's Quintet

Stephan’s Quintet |  This stunning image from the Gemini Observatory’s Multi-Object Spectrograph captures the graceful interactions of a galactic ballet, on a stage some 300 million light-years away. The galaxies are literally tearing each other apart, as the shapes of four of them are warped by mutual gravitational interactions. The fifth galaxy, at the top center of the image (NGC 7320) is thought to be much closer to us than the others, so it remains unaffected by the dance of galaxies behind it. It is further distinguished in this image by numerous red blobs indicating hydrogen-rich star forming regions.

Image credit: Gemini Observatory/Travis Rector—University of Alaska Anchorage

August 31, 2004

Planetary Nebula PK40-0.1

Planetary Nebula PK40-0.1 |  In theory all Planetary Nebula should look like this one: a nearly perfect sphere with a brightened limb. The reality is that most nebulae are found in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Round ones like PK 40-0.1 are actually a rarity in the Universe.

Image Credit: John Pierce/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

August 13, 2004

Spectrum of LALA J142442.24+353400.2, obtained with the GMOS spectrograph on Gemini North

Searching for the end of the cosmic dark ages with GMOS |  A team of U.S. astronomers reports the discovery of extremely high rates of star formation (more than 11 solar masses per year) in one of the most distant known galaxies in the Universe, some 12.8 billion light-years away. Astronomers traced the galaxy's starburst activity by measuring light emitted in the Lyman-alpha emission line, using deep multi-object spectroscopy conducted at the Gemini Observatory with GMOS-North.

July 27, 2004

High-Res Image of Dust Around Supernova 1987A

First High-Res Image of Dust Around Supernova 1987A |  Infrared observations of SN 1987A made in October 2003 as part of the checkout of the new Thermal-Region Camera Spectrograph (T-ReCS) instrument on Gemini South have revealed emission from a cool dust ring that is surprisingly luminous. It co-exists with hot gas components left over from the relic equatorial ring featured prominently in data from other observatories in wavelengths from X-ray to radio.

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory

July 16, 2004

N11 in the LMC

N11 in the LMC |   An image of N11 in the Large Magellanic Cloud, taken with the Curtis Schmidt telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) as part of the Magellanic Clouds Emission-Line Survey (MCELS).

This color image was produced using three separate exposures taken in hydrogen, sulfur and oxygen bandpasses. It was used to support the July 2004 release by the Hubble Heritage project.

Image Credit: S. Points and C. Smith/NOAO/AURA/NSF

July 08, 2004

 NGC6559, an emission nebula

NGC 6559 |   Some 5,000 light years from Earth, toward the asterism of Sagittarius, lies the emission nebula NGC 6559. Hydrogen gas is responsible for the diffuse red glow, while dark clouds of dust absorb much of the nebula's star light. Smaller dust particles scatter the blue light from the bright stars in the bottom half of the image, creating the beautiful blue and purple reflection nebulosity.

Image credit: John and Christie Connor/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

June 29, 2004

 M39, a loose, widely spaced open cluster

M39 |   This loose, widely spaced open cluster is found in the constellation Cygnus, about 800 light-years away. Also known as NGC7092, it has around 30 members and is two to three hundred million years old. This picture is a combination of 33 dithered frames in BVR colors taken with the Mosaic camera at the WIYN 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt Peak, near Tucson, Arizona

Image credit: Heidi Schweiker/NOAO/AURA/NSF

June 18, 2004

NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey image

Young Galaxy in the Very Early Universe |  Astronomers using a combination of data sets from the Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak, including the NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey (image above), have found a galaxy that formed when the Universe was just six percent of its present age, suggesting the "dark ages" of the early universe ended in a patchy, gradual process.

For more, see NOAO Press Release 04-05

June 03, 2004

spiral galaxy NGC 4402

Galaxy Cleaned Out by Encounter with Hot Cluster Gas |  This three-color composite image of spiral galaxy NGC 4402 shows several key lines of evidence for the galaxy being stripped bare of its star-forming material by its violent ongoing encounter with the hot gas in the center of the Virgo galaxy cluster, as NGC 4402 falls into it. Released at the AAS meeting in Denver.

Image Credit: H. Crowl (Yale University) and WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

May 26, 2004

Comet C/2001 Q4 (NEAT)

Close-up of Comet NEAT |  This image of Comet C/2001 Q4 (NEAT) was taken with the Mosaic I camera at the WIYN 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, AZ, on May 7, 2004. The comet will remain visible for several weeks with binoculars and small telescopes just after sunset, high in the western sky. See also NOAO Press Release 04-04.

Image Credits: T. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Z. Levay and L.Frattare (Space Telescope Science Institute) and WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

May 21, 2004

starburst galaxy M82

Starburst Eye of a Galaxy Produces a Cosmic Shower |  Combining images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, near Tucson, Ariz., this image is a color-coded picture of the archetypal starburst galaxy M82. It shows the horizontal stellar disk of the galaxy, which harbors its active star formation, and a perpendicular supergalactic wind of ionized gas powered by the energy released in the starburst. See also University of Wisconsin-Madison press release.

Image Credits: Mark Westmoquette (University College London), Jay Gallagher (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Linda Smith (University College London), WIYN//NSF, NASA/ESA

May 05, 2004

Comets NEAT Q4 and LINEAR T7

Two Comets, Two Hemispheres |  These two comet images were taken a few days and half a world apart. On the left is C/2001 Q4 (NEAT), imaged on Cerro Tololo, Chile on April 30, 2004 at the Curtis Schmidt telescope. On the right is C/2002 T7 (LINEAR), imaged on April 21, 2004 during the Advanced Observing Program at Kitt Peak, near Tucson, AZ.

Image Credits

  • C/2001 Q4 (NEAT): A.Gomez & H. Tirado NOAO/AURA/NSF
  • C/2002 T7 (LINEAR): Svend and Carl Freytag/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

April 15, 2004

SOAR dome on Cerro Pachón

SOAR: A 21st Century 4-meter Telescope |  Sitting on Cerro Pachón, a few hundred meters from the 8-m Gemini South telescope, and within view of NOAO’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, the SOuthern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope was dedicated on April 17, and is expected to begin routine science operation in late 2004. This 4.1-meter aperture telescope, funded by a partnership between the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), the country of Brazil, Michigan State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is designed to produce the best quality images of any observatory in its class in the world.

Links to more information can be found in Current News.

March 22, 2004

Henize 206

Henize 206 |  This superb new image of a stellar nursery in the Large Magellanic Cloud named Henize 206 combines data from the Spitzer Space Telescope with visible imaging from the University of Michigan/CTIO Heber D. Curtis Schmidt telescope at NOAO’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile as part of the Magellanic Cloud Emission Line Survey (C. Smith, et. al.). See Caltech press release.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/V. Gorjian (JPL)

March 11, 2004

GNIRS spectra

Gemini Near-Infrared Spectrograph (GNIRS) Key Science Opportunity Webcast |  As GNIRS nears first-science, NOAO is keen to see the powerful capabilities of GNIRS exploited for major scientific initiatives. Hence, NOAO is conducting a pilot program to enable observations with high scientific potential that require significant blocks of time with GNIRS on Gemini South (15 to 20 nights over the next two to three years). Find out more at the GNIRS Key Science Opportunity Webcast, Tuesday, March 16 at 10:00am MST.

March 03, 2004

NOAO Newsletter cover

NOAO/NSO Newsletter 77 |  The March 2004 edition of the Newsletter features news about the Adaptive Optics Development Program, progress reports from the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the AURA New Initiatives Office, and information on preparing observing proposals for 2004B.

February 02, 2004

Artist's concept of  the Galaxy String

Giant Galaxy String Defies Models of How Universe Evolved |  Wide-field telescope observations from the CTIO Blanco 4-meter telescope of the remote and therefore early Universe, looking back to a time when it was a fifth of its present age (redshift = 2.38), have revealed an enormous string of galaxies about 300 million light-years long. This new structure defies current models of how the Universe evolved, which can’t explain how a string this big could have formed so early.

For more information, see the NASA/Goddard Press release

January 21, 2004

Galaxy C153 in Cluster Abell 2125 (Composite)

Too Fast, Too Furious: A Galaxy’s Fatal Plunge |  Trailing 200,000-light-year-long streamers of seething gas, a galaxy that was once like our Milky Way is being shredded as it plunges at 4.5 million miles per hour through the heart of a distant cluster of galaxies. These findings use data from the Mayall 4-meter and Gemini Telescopes.

For more information, see the STScI Press release

January 14, 2004

SOAR mirror on truck with SOAR dome in view

SOAR Mirror Arrives in Chile |  The mirror for the SOAR 4-meter telescope arrived safely on Cerro Pachón in Chile on the afternoon of 9 January 2004 to the great excitement of the SOAR project team, who will now prepare the optics system for first light. Dedication of the telescope is planned for mid-April.

For more information, see:

January 05, 2004

Gemini Illustration of bright and dim galaxies

Faintest Spectra Ever Raise Glaring Question: Why do Galaxies in the Young Universe Appear so Mature? |  Why are some galaxies brighter than others? Bright galaxies where stars are forming may outshine dimmer, more massive galaxies. In all previous surveys of the “Redshift Desert,” the brighter star-forming galaxies were the only type bright enough to be sampled. The Gemini Deep Deep Survey (GDDS) was able to sample the dimmer, more massive galaxies and provide a better representation of the galaxies at this epoch of the Universe. The GDDS results revealed that there is a greater abundance of these more massive and older galaxies than expected from current models when the Universe was only 20-40% of its current age. Gemini Press Release 2004-1

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory Illustration

December 23, 2003

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays! |  The staff of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory wishes you all the best this holiday season.

December 09, 2003

GNIRS mounted on Gemini South

GNIRS Meets Gemini South |  The Gemini Near-InfraRed Spectrograph, designed and built by NOAO, has been mounted on the Gemini South telescope in Chile. This multi-million dollar, long-slit spectrometer will help astronomers make measurements of the chemical abundances of stars in other galaxies, the conditions at the centers of other galaxies (including very distant young objects) and the initial mass functions for very young star clusters.

December 03, 2003

REU Logo

The 2004 REU Program at Kitt Peak National Observatory |  There are six research assistant positions available for the summer of 2004. As part of their research activities, REU students gain first-hand experience with KPNO’s state-of-the-art telescopes and develop expertise in astronomical data reduction and analysis. Applications are due January 26, 2004.

November 05, 2003

Cassiopeia A

Cassiopeia A |  The remnants of a Type 1a Supernova that first appeared in 1572, as imaged by Kitt Peak Visitors Center telescope as part of the Advanced Observing Program.

Image credit: Doug Matthews and Charles Betts/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

October 24, 2003

GNIRS leaves the building

GNIRS has left the building |  NOAO has completed construction and testing of the Gemini Near Infrared Spectrograph (GNIRS). The instrument left Tucson on October 24 on its way to be mounted on the Gemini South telescope on Cerro Pachón in Chile, where it arrived on October 27 (see bottom image). This multi-million dollar, long-slit spectrometer will help astronomers make measurements of the chemical abundances of stars in other galaxies, the conditions at the centers of other galaxies (including very distant young objects) and the initial mass functions for very young star clusters.

For more information on GNIRS, see the GNIRS homepage.

October 06, 2003

Pelican Nebula

Pelican Nebula |  This image of the clouds of gas and dust next to the “neck” and “body” of the Pelican Nebula was produced by an NOAO Survey Program known as the Deep Imaging Survey of Nearby Star-Forming Clouds, led by John Bally of the University of Colorado and Bo Reipurth of the University of Hawaii.
Image Gallery Page | NOAO Press Release 03-08

Image Credit: University of Colorado, University of Hawaii and NOAO/AURA/NSF

September 30, 2003

Epsilon Indi Bb

Gemini Detects Something "Cool" in Our Neighborhood |  While searching for planet-sized bodies that might accompany the nearby star system Epsilon Indi, astronomers using the Gemini South telescope in Chile made a related but unexpected detection. The nearest known specimen of a brown dwarf, Epsilon Indi B (now Ba), has a cooler and less massive companion: Epsilon Indi Bb. This discovery was made with the NOAO-built PHOENIX high-resolution spectrometer, using a narrow-band filter within the J-band, and without the aid of adaptive optics. The separation between Epsilon Indi Ba and Bb is 0.7 arcsecond.

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/PHOENIX

September 25, 2003

Trifid Nebula

Trifid Nebula |   This nebula, also known as M20, gets its distinct look from dust lanes that seem to divide the nebula into three parts. Its distance is estimated at approximately 5,000 light-years and it can be found in the constellation Sagittarius. This image was taken at the Kitt Peak Visitor Center 20" telescope as part of the Advanced Observing Program.

Image Credit: Jim and Janet Castano/A. Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

September 02, 2003

Mosaic of galaxy images from the Survey for Ionization in Neutral Gas Galaxies (SINGG)

SINGG Survey Mosaic |   This montage of galaxy images from the Survey for Ionization in Neutral Gas Galaxies (SINGG) is featured in the Science Highlights section of the September 2003 NOAO/NSO Newsletter, which is online now.

August 11, 2003


Mars |   This planet has captured the public’s imagination like no other in our solar system. As it nears its closest approach to Earth in some 60,000 years, Mars offers observers spectacular views such as this one taken on August 3, 2003 at the Kitt Peak Visitor Center 20-inch telescope.

Image Credit: A. Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

July 08, 2003

Images from New Gemini Spectrograph Rival View from Space |  This striking image of the Hickson Compact Group 87, a diverse group of galaxies located about 400 million light-years from Earth, was acquired with the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the 8-meter Gemini South Telescope without the help of adaptive optics. NOAO provided the highly capable detector subsystem and related software for GMOS-South. Gemini Press Release

June 24, 2003

M3 |   A sixth magnitude globular cluster in the constellation Canes Venatici, this ball of 500,000 stars is approximately 160 light years across and 100,000 light years from Earth. The image is a combination of a B-band image and a Z-band image (Z is approximately from 8500 to 9500 A) taken at the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope with the WIYN Tip-Tilt Module (WTTM).

Image Credit: S. Kafka and K. Honeycutt Indiana University/WIYN/NOAO/NSF

May 27, 2003

NGC 1333 |   This star cluster in Perseus is the home of at least seven extremely large dusty disks around young stars where newborn planets could be forming. These disks were detected in infrared images using the FLAMINGOS instrument at Kitt Peak. See NOAO Press Release 03-05.

Image Credit: University of Florida and NOAO/AURA/NSF

May 09, 2003

Helix Nebula |  This composite picture is a seamless blend of ultra-sharp NASA Hubble Space Telescope images combined with the wide view of the Mosaic Camera on the WIYN 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona.

Image Credit: NASA, NOAO, ESA, the Hubble Helix Nebula Team, M. Meixner (STScI), and T.A. Rector (NRAO)

April 17, 2003

NGC4274 |   A compact spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices, this image of NGC4274 comes from the public Kitt Peak Advanced Observing Program.

Image credit: Steve and Sherry Bushey/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

April 01, 2003

Crescent Nebula |  This wide-field image of the Crescent Nebula (NGC6888) was taken at the National Science Foundation's 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt Peak with the NOAO Mosaic CCD camera.

Image credit: T.A. Rector (NRAO/AUI/NSF and NOAO/AURA/NSF)

March 17, 2003

Globular Cluster M5 |  This image of M5 comes from the public Kitt Peak Advanced Observing Program.

Image credit: Sally and Curt King/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

March 07, 2003

M100 |  Located in the constellation Coma Berenices, M100 (also known as NGC4321) is one of the brighter galaxies in the Virgo Cluster. The presence of many young stars give the arms of this spiral galaxy a blue appearance. This image was taken December 20, 2002 at the WIYN 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt Peak.

Image credit: N.A.Sharp/NOAO/AURA/NSF

February 17, 2003

M27, the Dumbbell Nebula |  This month’s Hubble Heritage image of the Dumbbell Nebula is superimposed onto a WIYN image of M27, highlighting the differences in the field of view of the two telescopes. The Heritage site features several other supplemental ground-based images from WIYN and the Mayall 4-meter telescope.

January 29, 2003

M17, the Omega Nebula |   This unusual image was created from five frames imaged with filters covering a narrow range of wavelengths. The color changes across filaments are indicative of physical changes in the bright emission nebula.

Image Credit: Hillary Mathis, N.A.Sharp, REU program/NOAO/AURA/NSF

January 08, 2003

Possible Stellar Cocoons |   found in the harsh environment of the Carina Nebula, using the Blanco telescope. For more information, see the press release: NOAO 03-01

December 26, 2002

Happy Holidays from NOAO! |  The SOAR (SOuthern Astrophysical Research) telescope dome on snow covered Cerro Pachon.

Image Credit: Sergio Franco (with enhancements by M. Newhouse)

December 16, 2002

M94 |  Many detailed features in this spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici have been brought out by drastically compressed image mapping: an extremely bright inner region surrounded by a blue ring of young star clusters, a fainter yellowish region of older stars also surrounded by traces of young stars, and even further out, a very much fainter outer ring.

Image credit: Hillary Mathis, N.A.Sharp/NOAO/AURA/NSF

November 25, 2002

M33, the Triangulum Galaxy |  This revealing image combines optical data from the 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt Peak with radio data from the Very Large Array in New Mexico and the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands.

Image Gallery page for this image.

November 14, 2002

Gemini Telescope on Mauna Kea Named in Honor of Dr. Frederick C. Gillett |  Marian Gillett, right, with her children, Michael Gillett and Denuta Gessner, stand before the plaque which honors her deceased husband, Dr. Fred Gillett (inset), in a naming ceremony of the Gemini North telescope, November 13, 2002, on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i. Gemini Press Release

Image credit: Gemini Observatory

November 07, 2002

Emission Line image of M27, the Dumbbell Nebula

The Dumbbell Nebula |  This excellent image of M27, a planetary nebula in the constellation of Vulpecula, was taken at the 3.5-meter WIYN telescope using the Mini-Mosaic imager. NOAO Image gallery page

October 22, 2002

Centaurus A Galaxy

Arc of Blue Stars a Lingering Sign of Shredded Dwarf Galaxy |  An unobtrusive arc of blue stars stretching above the iconic galaxy Centaurus A represents the lingering signature of an episode of galactic cannibalism that is surprisingly recent and, astronomically speaking, quite nearby. NOAO Press Release 02-11

October 10, 2002

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Kitt Peak

Tucson Mayor Robert Walkup and three students from the Indian Oasis Middle School in Sells cut the ribbon at the official opening night of the Space Weather Center exhibit at the Kitt Peak Visitor Center.

September 27, 2002

Globular Cluster 47 

The Infrared Side Port Imager (ISPI) instrument at the CTIO Blanco 4-meter telescope has obtained this first-light image of globular cluster 47 Tucanae taken in the infrared H-band.

More information on ISPI and its 11 x 11 arcmin field of view.

September 18, 2002

M16, the Eagle Nebula

This image of the Eagle Nebula (M16) taken at Kitt Peak has been turned into a popular poster available for purchase at the Visitor Center.

For high resolution images see the NOAO Image Gallery Page.

September 09, 2002

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

The proposed Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) was discussed several times at the recent Workshop on Science Requirements for Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids.

For more information, see: NOAO Press Release 02-08 and the Mitigation Workshop information page.

August 04, 2002

Trifid Nebula

The Trifid Nebula is located in the constellation of Sagittarius. This stunning image of the much-photographed, dynamic cloud of gas and dust, was taken at the Gemini North Observatory with the GMOS instrument, which uses software developed by NOAO.

Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/GMOS Image. For high resolution images, see the Gemini Press Release (2002-10).

July 15, 2002

NGC 2420

NGC 2420 is a richly populated star cluster in the Milky Way whose stellar population has surprising similarities to the Sun's composition.

For high resolution images, see the NOAO Image Gallery.

June 20, 2002

Super Nova 2002dj

Supernova 2002dj is the bluish dot to the right of the center of the galaxy NGC 5018 in this image taken by the 0.9-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile on 14 June 2002.

For high resolution images, see the NOAO Image Gallery.

May 30, 2002

Brown Dwarf and companion star

A Brown Dwarf Orbits a Low-Mass Star at a distance of just 3 AU in this adaptive optics image from Gemini North.

NOAO Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/Melanie Freed, Laird Close, Nick Siegler University of Arizona/ Hokupa'a-QUIRC image, University of Hawaii, IfA

For more information, see the NOAO Press Release.

April 09, 2002

WIYN and HST Images of the Ring Nebula

The Ring Nebula, Ground and Space Views |  The WIYN 3.5-meter telescope on Kitt Peak took this image of the Ring Nebula (left) on April 2, 2002 aided by the new WIYN Tip-Tilt Module (WTTM). This adaptive optics device helps correct for degradation of the telescope's imaging quality due to atmospheric effects and shaking of the telescope by wind.

For larger versions of the comparable WIYN and Hubble Space Telescope images, see The WIYN Tip-Tilt Module.

March 31, 2002

Image of Galactic Center

The center of our Milky Way Galaxy in the infrared, centered around the Brackett Alpha emission line, is shown in this composite image of 42 frames obtained by the Abu thermal infrared camera on the Gemini South 8-meter telescope. Abu was built by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

More information in the NOAO Image Gallery.

February 20, 2002

Image of NGC6822

The nearby irregular galaxy NGC 6822 shows a myriad of hot blue massive stars and several famous nebulae in impressive detail in this new color image taken at the Blanco 4-meter telescope in Chile by the NOAO Local Group Galaxies Survey Team.

More information in the NOAO Image Gallery.

January 08, 2002

Image of NGC6369

Gemini South Image of NGC 6369 | A planetary nebula produced by a star that was once like our Sun. This image was obtained with the "Abu" thermal-infrared camera built by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and was released in honor of the dedication of Gemini South on January 18, 2002.

For further information, see the Gemini Press Release.

For copies of this science image and several others, see the Gemini South Dedication Science Images.

November 29, 2001

Image of the edge-on protoplanetary disk

Edge-on Protoplanetary Disk | Astronomers using the recently commissioned Gemini North telescope in Hawaii have discovered a protoplanetary disk orbiting one of the stars in a newborn quadruple star system.

For further information, see the NOAO Press Release.

November 25, 2001

Gamma Ray Burst (GRB 011121)

Gamma Ray Burst | The blue dot in the center of this image (highlighted by a blue arrow) is the optical light signature of Gamma Ray Burst 011121. It was taken with the National Science Foundation's Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile on November 23. The reddish dot adjoining the transient gamma ray burst, at its lower left, is probably the core of the galaxy in which the gamma ray burst occurred.

For further information, see: NOAO Image Gallery.