Current Trends in Astronomy
In addition the the
Current Events links on the left, there are plenty of other cool programs
currently underway. In addition, some very exciting projects are just on the
- The Sloan Digital Sky
Survey is a monumental undertaking - mapping the entire sky with a 2.5
meter telescope and a very large CCD array of 30 chips, each with a 2048 x
2048 pixel resolution. The goal of this project is to provide accurate
astrometry (star positions), photometry (star brightness) and redshifts (the
velocity) of about 1 million galaxies.
Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope also uses an impressive array of CCD
chips to capture some very impressive images of Deep Space objects. Other
wide field imagers include the
Anglo-Australian Telescope CCD mosaic. These CCD mosaics are important
as demand for them will rise with the next generation telescopes.
2 Micron All Sky Survey is designed to image 3 infrared bands at the
same time. 300 million stars and 3 million galaxies will be catalogued in
Submillimeter Common User Bolometer Array (SCUBA) will scan the entire
sky in millimeter wavelengths. This has allowed Astronomers to view our own
galactic center with unprecedented detail.
- All sky radio surveys are also underway in both hemispheres: for the
southern hemisphere, the
HIPASS (Hydrogen Parks All Sky Survey) has mapped the southern sky of
radio sources - one of which discovered a leading arm extending from the
Magellanic Clouds indicating destruction by tidal forces by our own galaxy.
For the northern hemisphere, the
(Hydrogen Jodrell All Sky Survey) is currently mapping the northern
hemisphere for radio sources.
Cosmic Background Imager is a ground based instrument designed to map
the entire Cosmic Background Radiation. While mapping the CBR has been done,
better understanding of the small fluctuations within the CBR gives vital
clues as to the formation of the early Universe. Exciting stuff indeed. The
WMAP probe is a
space based instrument for mapping the CBR.
- Already mentioned in the Current Events is the
observatory. Orbiting the Earth, this wonderful tool has collected vital
data on the nature of supermassive black holes as well as supernova remnants
and planetary nebula.
XMM Newton is also an X-ray observatory, but its forte is designed to
collect data on the subtleties of galactic mergers and collect data on Gamma
Ray Bursts (GRB's).
- The Spitzer
Space Telescope (SST) is the compliment of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Designed to operate in the infrared, the images captured by the SST is just
as dramatic as the Hubble, just in a different wavelength.
The Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) will be the
Space Telescope (JWST). While it is commonly believed this telescope
will take the place of Hubble, in reality it is an infrared telescope
designed to improve upon the data collecting ability of the current Spitzer
The king of the Earth based optical observatories are the
Keck twins on the
peak of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. That will probably remain that way for only a
short time. There are some remarkable telescopes on the horizon - either
under construction or in the final design stages. Here are a few:
The Large-area Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) an 8.4 meter, three
mirror telescope designed for greater resolution with a very wide field
Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) will sport a twin 8.4 meter
telescope on a common mount. The light gathering ability will equal that
of an 11.8 meter mirror and will also have high resolution with a wide
field of view. As an added benefit, the LBT is designed to image in the
optical and infrared.
- The South African
Large Telescope (SALT) will sport an 11 meter segmented mirror. The
design and purpose will model that of the existing
Hobbey-Eberly telescope in Texas.
- A proposed infrared and optical telescope of interest is the
Euro50, the Extremely Large Telescope. It is a 50 meter mirror that
will contain 618 2 meter segments. This telescope will be 25 times
larger than the Keck.
- If that is not big enough, another larger telescope is on the
drawing board. Called the
(Overwhelmingly Large Telescope), this telescope will host a 100
meter mirror. It will contain around 500,000 individual adaptive optic
components. This international collaboration will hope for a completion
date of 15 years. One of the major goals of this telescope is to perform
follow-up observations of data collected from the
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