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Thursday, April 12, 2012

New Instrument To Studying Earliest Galaxies

Image from MOSFIRE
A five-ton of new scientific instruments, which has been built by the astronomers from UCLA and his colleagues. With this instrument, will allow scientists to study the earliest galaxies of the universe. This instrument is the most advanced technology to date, which has been named MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer for Infra-Red Exploration), this instrument has also been installed at the Keck I telescope at the WM Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

MOSFIRE gathers light in infrared wavelengths — invisible to the human eye — allowing it to penetrate cosmic dust and see distant objects whose light has been stretched or "redshifted" to the infrared by the expansion of the universe.
"The instrument was designed to study the most distant, faintest galaxies," said UCLA physics and astronomy professor Ian S. McLean, project leader on MOSFIRE and director of UCLA's Infrared Laboratory for Astrophysics. "When we look at the most distant galaxies, we see them not as they are now but as they were when the light left them that is just now arriving here. Some of the galaxies that we are studying were formed some 10 billion years ago — only a few billion years after the Big Bang. We are looking back in time to the era of the formation of some of the very first galaxies, which are small and very faint. That is an era that we need to study if we are going to understand the large-scale structure of the universe."

With MOSFIRE, it will now become much easier to identify faint galaxies, "families of galaxies" and merging galaxies. The instrument also will enable detailed observations of planets orbiting nearby stars, star formation within our own galaxy, the distribution of dark matter in the universe and much more.
"We would like to study the environment of those early galaxies," said McLean, who built the instrument with colleagues from UCLA, the California Institute of Technology and UC Santa Cruz, along with industrial sub-contractors. "Sometimes there are large clusters with thousands of galaxies, sometimes small clusters. Often, black holes formed in the centers of galaxies."

On 4 April, for the first time the light is collected by MOSFIRE, planned to be used in September, after going through the testing phase in May and June. The scientists can also pick up infrared light from the field and study of 46 galaxies simultaneously. But this time, it takes three hours or longer to get a good spectrum of only one galaxy, McLean noted.

McLean built the world's first infrared camera for wide use by astronomers in 1986 and since then has built eight increasingly sophisticated infrared cameras and spectrometers — which split light into its component colors — as well as helping on a few others.

McLean and Charles Steidel, the Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, led the project to build MOSFIRE from scratch over seven years. Harland Epps, a UC Santa Cruz professor of astronomy and astrophysics, designed the optics for the instrument. A team of nearly two dozen people helped, including Kristin Kulas and Gregory Mace, UCLA graduate students in physics and astronomy who work in McLean's laboratory; Keith Matthews, an instrument designer from Caltech; and Sean Adkins, an engineer who is the instrument program manager for the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Most of the mechanical parts for MOSFIRE were built at UCLA and Caltech. The slit unit that enables 46 objects to be isolated was manufactured in Switzerland. The computer programming was led by UCLA.

MOSFIRE estimated price of $ 14 million. Funds to build MOSFIRE comes from the federal government by the National Science Foundation (through the Telescope System Instrumentation), and by the Gordon and Betty Moore. Founder Gordon Moore, former chairman and CEO, and chairman emeritus of Intel Corp.

This article has edited by author of threelas
Source: UCLA

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