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NOAO Home Page News Archive

Recent News from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (Page 1 of 22)

The most distant protocluster of galaxies discovered to date. The blue shading shows the extent of the protocluster. Insets highlight the 12 protocluster galaxies, which appear red because of their high recessional velocity.

Credit: NAOJ/Harikane et al.

A Young Giant in the Early Universe
Record-breaking Protocluster of Galaxies Discovered

Astronomers have discovered the most distant protocluster of galaxies detected to date, its light reaching us after a journey of 13 billion years, from a time when the Universe was only 6 percent of its present age. As the ancestor of present-day clusters of galaxies, the largest astronomical objects in the Universe, protoclusters hold clues to how these massive structures form. NOAO astronomer Chien-Hsiu Lee is a member of the discovery team.

Read more in the press releases from Gemini Observatory and the Subaru Telescope.

Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

2020 Breakthrough Prize Awarded to Event Horizon Telescope Team

The 347-person team that made the first image of a supermassive black hole has been awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, one of the “Oscars of Science.” By synchronizing 8 radio telescopes, the team created a virtual telescope the size of the Earth, with a resolving power never before achieved from the Earth’s surface. One of their first targets was the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87. NOAO Astronomer Tod Lauer is a member of the Event Horizon Telescope team.

Read more in Breakthrough Prize press release.

Credit: Carnegie Science

New Names for Jovian Moons Discovered with DECam

Pandia, Ersa, Eirene, Philophrosyne and Eupheme — these are the new names of five of the moons of Jupiter that were discovered last year with the Dark Energy Camera on the Blanco 4-m telescope at CTIO. Astronomer Scott Sheppard, one of the discoverers of the moons, launched a Twitter contest this Spring to name the moons using the hashtag #NameJupitersMoons. Commenting on the hugely enthusiastic response, Sheppard said, “I hope the thought of these moons let everyone ponder the wonder and amazement that is our universe.”

Read more in Carnegie Press Release and the IAU Announcement

Credit: SOAR/Bruno Quint

Automated Observing Network Inaugurated at SOAR Telescope
New telescope network to rapidly follow up on the changing night sky

While the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will soon discover millions of time varying sources—such as supernovae and erupting young stars—quick follow up observations are needed to understand these events. To meet the challenge of developing a network of telescopes that can be accessed with a touch of a button, four observatories have joined forces to create the Astronomical Event Observatory Network (AEON). The SOAR telescope at CTIO has just completed the first observing night for the network.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 19-08.

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

A Whirlpool Warhol:
The Changing Face of Galaxies from the Visible to the Infrared

It all depends on how you look at it—galaxies appear different in visible light (i.e., wavelengths that our eyes are sensitive to) than at longer wavelengths, in the infrared. In visible light (panel a), the Whirlpool galaxy M51 and its companion show fine filigree dust lanes that obscure and redden the light from background stars. In the infrared (panels c and d), the dust lanes, warmed by starlight, glow brightly. Panel b combines the visible light image, taken at the Kitt Peak 2.1m telescope, and the infrared images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Read more from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Inset: A. Meisner

What’s Your Moonshot?
Backyard Worlds Aims to Discover Cold New Worlds

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Newsweek is highlighting pioneers in science and technology, their moonshots, and how they hope to change the world. This week’s issue features NOAO Astronomer Aaron Meisner, who describes the inspiration behind the Backyard Worlds citizen science project he helped create and how it brings the human element back to the exploration of big data sets.

Read more in Newsweek.

Credit: P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF; Inset animation: Robert Hurt

Fastest Eclipsing Binary
A valuable target for gravitational wave studies

Observations made with KPED, a new instrument developed for use at the Kitt Peak 2.1-meter telescope, have led to the discovery of the fastest eclipsing white dwarf binary yet known. Clocking in with an orbital period of only 6.91 minutes, the rapidly orbiting stars are expected to be one of the strongest sources of gravitational waves detectable with LISA, the future space-based gravitational wave detector.

Read more in NOAO press release 19-07.

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

Day into Night: Total Solar Eclipse passes over Cerro Tololo

On 2 July 2019, a total solar eclipse passed over Chile and Argentina. Through a stroke of astronomical luck, the path of totality crossed directly over the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) located in the foothills of the Andes, 7,241 feet (2200 meters) above sea level in the Coquimbo Region of northern Chile. During two minutes of totality, starting at 4:38 p.m. ET, the day turned into night when the moon completely covered the sun.

View this spectacular event as seen from CTIO.

Credit (l-r): P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF; J. Moustakas/Siena College/Legacy Surveys team; M. A. Stecker

New Sky Surveys Set the Stage for Dark Energy Experiment

Three new imaging surveys pave the way for an upcoming spectroscopic experiment, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), which will explore the role of dark energy in the expansion history of the Universe. Images from the surveys, which were carried out with the Mayall and Bok telescopes at KPNO and the Blanco telescope at CTIO, can now be explored from the comfort of your browser for a virtual tour of the cosmos!

Read more in the Berkeley Lab press release.

Read more about the DESI survey to be carried out at KPNO.

NOAO Newsletter Number 119 - June 2019

Image Credit: DESI Collaboration

June 2019 NOAO Newsletter

The June 2019 NOAO Newsletter is online and ready to download. It contains sections on Science Highlights, Community Science & Data, System Observing, and NOAO Operations & Staff.

On the Cover
First Light image (of M51) with the new DESI Corrector Assembly (CA) on the Mayall 4m telescope on Kitt Peak. The CA consists of four ~1m diameter lenses and a two-element atmospheric dispersion corrector, as well as the hexapod, used for fine-motion and focus control of the CA. The image was made with the Commissioning Instrument, composed of five CCD cameras temporarily installed in the DESI focal plane.