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NOAO Home Page News Archive

Recent News from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (Page 1 of 21)

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.

Credit: T. Abbott & NOAO/AURA/NSF; Inset, right: S. Pompea & NOAO/AURA/NSF

Commemorating 100 years of General Relativity

On May 29, 1919, Arthur Eddington performed an experiment during a total solar eclipse that confirmed Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, expanding our understanding of space, time, and mass. On July 2, another solar eclipse will pass over the telescopes at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile. A team of students from the University of La Serena, along with Juan Seguel (CTIO) and Rob Sparks (NOAO), will perform a commemorative experiment and attempt to replicate Eddington’s results.

Read more in NOAO press release 19-06.

Credit: LSST Project/NSF/AURA

LSST Mirror Arrives at Cerro Pachón

The 8.4m-diameter primary mirror of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) has reached its home at Cerro Pachón in Chile. Earlier this month, the mirror reached the port at Coquimbo, where it was loaded onto a 72-wheeled transport vehicle for the trip to the summit. The trip included passage through the tunnel at Puclaro Dam, with just inches to spare on either side. In a survey set to begin in 2022, LSST will scan the entire visible sky every few nights for 10 years, opening a new window on the changing Universe.

Read more in the LSST press release.

Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Riess (STScI/JHU), and Palomar Digitized Sky Survey

Mystery of the Universe’s Expansion: the Plot Thickens

New results from the Hubble Space Telescope confirm that the Universe today is expanding faster than expected, based on how the Universe appeared 13 billion years ago. Possible explanations for the discrepancy include a surprise appearance of dark energy in the young Universe (“early dark energy”) or that the Universe contains a new subatomic particle that travels close to the speed of light (“dark radiation”). The development relies on an earlier study of Cepheid variable stars carried out with the SMARTS 1.5m telescope at CTIO.

Read more in the Texas A&M press release and the Space Telescope Science Institute press release.

Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

Two New Planets Discovered Using Artificial Intelligence

Using an artificial intelligence algorithm to sift through massive amounts of data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, a team of astronomers, led by an undergraduate at UT Austin, has discovered two new exoplanets. The planets are “super-Earths” — planets about twice the size of Earth—that orbit very close to their stars. With orbital periods of 13 days and 2.5 days, each day on these planets is a scorcher! NOAO astronomer Mark Everett is a member of the discovery team.

Read more in the McDonald Observatory press release.