NOAO Home Page Image Archive
The following images have appeared on the NOAO Home Page over the last several years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
July 07, 2016
Image Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI) & S. Sheppard, et. al.
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.
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.
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.
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
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, T. Abbott & NOAO/AURA/NSF
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
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 legacysurvey.org. 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
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
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
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.
January 26, 2015
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.
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.
September 22, 2014
Image Credit: P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF
Infant Solar System Shows Signs of
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.
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
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.
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)
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
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
D. Caminha & SOAR/NOAO/AURA/NSF
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
D. Harbeck/WIYN M82 Team/WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF
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
Sean Points, CTIO/NOAO/AURA/NSF
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
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
T. Abbott & CTIO/NOAO/AURA/NSF
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):
|Closed Loop||Open Loop|
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.
February 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
August 28, 2012
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
T. Abbott & NOAO/AURA/NSF
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.
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
Tim Abbott, NOAO/AURA/NSF
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
T. Abbot & CTIO/NOAO/AURA/NSF
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
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
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.
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.
September 29, 2011
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
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
Tim Abbott, NOAO/AURA/NSF
September 2011 NOAO Newsletter
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
T. A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage and NOAO/AURA/NSF
April 06, 2009
with Barnard 86
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
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
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…
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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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 https://www.darkenergysurvey.org/
Image credit: UK STFC
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)
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 www.astronomy2009.us and www.astronomy2009.org
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
View the NOAO Showcase: Local Group Galaxies in Google Earth.
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
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.
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.
Alambre Fire Response
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hot-wiring the Transient Universe: A Joint VOEvent & HTN Workshop |
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
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 http://www.galex.caltech.edu/
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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