From Dunlap: “Opening a Wider Window on the Universe”

Dunlap Institute bloc
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics

Jul 06, 2017 [Just got this in RSS]

Prof. Dae-Sik Moon
Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
University of Toronto
p: 416-978-6566

Prof. Suresh Sivanandam
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
University of Toronto
p: 416-978-6550

Chris Sasaki
Communications Coordinator | Press Officer
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
University of Toronto
p: 416-978-6613

In May 2017, Prof. Dae-Sik Moon, Prof. Suresh Sivanandam and PhD student Elliot Meyer installing WIFIS on the 2.3-metre Bok Telescope at the Steward Observatory in Arizona. Image: Prof. Suresh Sivanandam; Dunlap Institute.

An innovative astronomical spectrograph has achieved “first light”, the start of its life as a scientific tool for studying objects such as colliding galaxies, stellar nurseries and the remnants of exploded stars.

Spectrographs are instruments which spread out light according to wavelength, just as a prism spreads out a beam of sunlight into a “rainbow” of its constituent colours. The spectra created by the spectrograph reveals detailed information about the light source’s composition, motion, age, and more.

In May, 2017, after years of development, fabrication and testing, a team of astronomers from the University of Toronto installed the Wide Integral-Field Infrared Spectrograph (WIFIS) on the 2.3-metre Bok Telescope at the Steward Observatory in Arizona.

2.3-metre Bok Telescope at the Steward Observatory at Kitt Peak in Arizona, USA, altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

U Arizona Steward Observatory at Kitt Peak, AZ, USA, altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

“WIFIS has the largest field-of-view of any infrared spectrograph of its type,” says WIFIS Principal Investigator, Prof. Dae-Sik Moon, from the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto. “This makes WIFIS a unique instrument ideally suited for observing large objects.”

With the wide viewing field of WIFIS, astronomers can capture, in a single observation, the light of astronomical objects that appear larger in our sky than stars or very distant galaxies; targeting the same objects, spectrographs with narrower fields-of-view would require many more observations.

“With WIFIS,” says Moon, “we will study supernova explosions by observing young supernova remnants, the motion of gases in star-forming regions, massive stellar clusters, populations of stars within galaxies, merging galaxies, the formation of massive stars in galaxies, and much more.”

Cassiopeia A is a remnant of a supernova and is typical of the types of objects WIFIS will target. It has already been observed with the new spectrograph. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Prof. Suresh Sivanandam is a WIFIS co-investigator from the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, U of T. “WIFIS is important,” says Sivanandam, “because it helps fulfill the Dunlap’s mandate to deliver innovative, impactful instrumentation.”

“WIFIS represents the first major infrared instrument that was predominantly developed and constructed at the University of Toronto,” says Sivanadam. “Plus, training students is another part of our mandate, and WIFIS delivered there, too. It offered rich opportunities for students to learn the art of instrumentation development.”

At the University of Toronto, the WIFIS team also includes Dr. Richard Chou, and U of T astronomy PhD student Elliot Meyer. Previously, the team also included graduate students Max Millar-Blanchaer, Mark Ma, Miranda Jarvis and Bryn Orth-Lashley.

The international collaboration that developed WIFIS includes the University of Arizona, Korean Astronomy and Space Science Institute and the University of Florida.

See the full article here .

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


Stem Education Coalition

Dunlap Institute campus

The Dunlap Institute is committed to sharing astronomical discovery with the public. Through lectures, the web, social and new media, an interactive planetarium, and major events like the Toronto Science Festival, we are helping to answer the public’s questions about the Universe.
Our work is greatly enhanced through collaborations with the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, David Dunlap Observatory, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the Toronto Public Library, and many other partners.