At noon today, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) was released from a companion aircraft and sent off into Earth's orbit. That's big news for black hole and space enthusiasts: The technology strapped to it will make the hunt for celestial objects significantly easier, both in the Milky Way and farther abroad.
Along with hosting a supermassive black hole at its heart, the center of the radio-loud galaxy Centaurus A is home to a stellar nursery that tells a tale of the galaxy’s past. The presence of a dark band of dust, as well as the galaxy’s powerful emissions in the radio end of the spectrum, suggest it formed in a collision between a giant elliptical galaxy and a smaller spiral galaxy.
Two continents vying to host the world’s largest telescope will both get a piece, a compromise that apparently makes everyone happy, at least officially. South Africa and eight partner countries will host the majority of the dishes in the first phases, with Australia and New Zealand getting the low-frequency radio dishes in the later phases. The SKA will leverage precursor telescopes both groups have been building for years.
The biggest digital camera in the world, both in terms of physical size and giga-capacity, just won an early approval from the U.S. Department of Energy, which is funding the project. The camera for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will now proceed to a detailed engineering and design phase, another step toward the start of construction in two years.
It’s tough to get a new space telescope funded — there are all kinds of budget disputes and delays that can make it difficult to ever get off the ground. Perhaps using a balloon is one cheaper solution. NASA just funded a new X-ray observatory that will float in the upper atmosphere for a day, staring at suspected black holes.
Anyone who has ever owned a telescope understands the feeling of anticipation that comes with a cloudless, moonless night. Whether it's humid and mosquito-y or freezing cold, when the stars show themselves, you do what it takes to prepare for a night outside. What should I look for tonight? Maybe a nice globular cluster; maybe Jupiter at opposition, looking graceful through new color filters.
Now imagine answering these questions from home while commanding a 14-inch robotic telescope at Tenerife, in the remote Canary Islands. Where would you look? Francisco Sanchez, director of a new worldwide networked telescope project based in Spain, would like to hear your ideas.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — In the basement of a quaintly cramped building on the Harvard University campus, down a set of corkscrew stairs that would make a rollercoaster designer dizzy, the shelves and filing cabinets are spilling over with 100 years of stars. Glass photographic plates shipped from telescopes around the world document the Beehive Cluster as it appeared in 1890, or Cepheid variable stars as they looked in 1908. The glass plates — some 525,000 of them — serve as the only permanent record of the skies as seen by our forebears.
But the 170-ton database represents much more than an archive of astronomical history — it's a potential gold mine for new discoveries, if only scientists could dig through it. With that goal in mind, a small collection of astronomers and archivists is using custom-built technology to bring this enormous data set into the digital age.
New Mexico's Very Large Array, a giant radio telescope observatory which took a PopSci largeness prize recently, is named in a fine tradition of utilitarian monikers like the European Extremely Large Telescope and the ultimately impractical Overwhelmingly Large Telescope.
But, following a massive rebuilding of the 1970s electronics from the ground up, the VLA feels it needs a new name, and it's open to suggestions!
The world’s largest astronomical facility has opened its eyes, turning nearly two dozen antennae toward the heavens to study the building blocks of the cosmos. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array consists of 20 radio antennae for now, but will contain 66 by 2013, giving it a higher resolution than the Hubble Space Telescope.
Astronomers just spotted a brand-new supernova mere hours after it exploded, thanks to a robotic telescope and some smart computer algorithms. Now they’re scrambling to use as many telescopes as possible, on Earth and in space, to observe the star’s death throes.