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  • richardmitnick 2:33 pm on January 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Gamma ray telescopes, prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT), ,   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “Scientists to inaugurate a new type of gamma ray telescope at Whipple Observatory” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    January 16, 2019
    Tim Stephens

    The prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT) is a novel type of gamma-ray telescope designed for the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA). (Photo by Amy Oliver, Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian)

    A new type of gamma-ray telescope will be unveiled January 17 in an inauguration event at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Amado, Arizona. Expected to see first light in early 2019, the telescope is a prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT) designed for the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), the next generation ground-based observatory for gamma-ray astronomy at very high energies.

    David Williams, adjunct professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz, chairs the CTA-US Consortium.

    “The inauguration of the pSCT is an exciting moment for the institutions involved in its development and construction,” Williams said. “The first of its kind in the history of gamma-ray telescopes, the SCT design is expected to boost CTA performance towards the theoretical limit of the technology.”

    The CTA Observatory, for which construction will begin in 2019, will be the world’s largest and most sensitive high-energy gamma-ray observatory, with more than 100 telescopes located in the northern and southern hemispheres.

    The 9.7-meter aperture pSCT is a pathfinder telescope for use in the CTA and exploits a novel optical design. Its complex dual-mirror optical system improves on the single-mirror designs traditionally used in gamma-ray telescopes by dramatically enhancing the optical quality of their focused light over a large region of the sky, and by enabling the use of compact, highly-efficient photo-sensors in the telescope camera.

    “Ultimately, the SCT is designed to improve CTA’s ability to detect very-high-energy gamma-ray sources, which may also be sources of neutrinos and gravitational waves,” said Vladimir Vassiliev, principal investigator of the pSCT. “Once the SCT technology is demonstrated at FLWO, it is hoped that SCTs will become a part of at least one of the two CTA arrays, located in each of the northern and southern hemispheres.”

    The CTA Observatory (CTAO) will consist of 118 telescopes of three different sizes and is expected to detect sources of gamma rays in the energy range 20 GeV to 300 TeV, with about ten times increased sensitivity compared to any current observatory. Notable for providing improved gamma-ray angular resolution and its very-high-resolution camera (more than 11,000 pixels), the SCT is proposed for the medium-sized CTA telescopes and will primarily contribute to the middle of CTA’s energy range (80 GeV to 50 TeV).

    “The SCT and other telescopes at CTA will greatly improve upon current gamma-ray research being conducted at HAWC, HESS, MAGIC, and VERITAS, the last of which is located at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory,” said VERITAS Director Wystan Benbow.

    HAWC High Altitude Cherenkov Experiment, located on the flanks of the Sierra Negra volcano in the Mexican state of Puebla at an altitude of 4100 meters(13,500ft), at WikiMiniAtlas 18°59′41″N 97°18′30.6″W. searches for cosmic rays

    HESS Cherenkov Telescope Array, located on the Cranz family farm, Göllschau, in Namibia, near the Gamsberg searches for cosmic rays, altitude, 1,800 m (5,900 ft)

    MAGIC Cherenkov telescopes at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (Garfia, La Palma, Spain))

    CfA/VERITAS, a major ground-based gamma-ray observatory with an array of four 12m optical reflectors for gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV – TeV energy range. Located at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory,Mount Hopkins, Arizona, US in AZ, USA, Altitude 2,606 m (8,550 ft)

    “Gamma-ray observatories like VERITAS have been operating for 12 to 16 years, and their many successes have brought very-high-energy gamma-ray astronomy into the mainstream, and have made many exciting discoveries. We hope CTA will supersede VERITAS around 2023, and it will be used to continue to build upon the 50 years of gamma-ray research at the Whipple Observatory and elsewhere.”

    The Whipple Observatory is operated by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    The SCT optical design was first conceptualized by U.S. members of CTA in 2006, and the construction of the pSCT was funded in 2012. Preparation of the pSCT site at the base of Mt. Hopkins in Amado, AZ, began in late 2014, and the steel structure was assembled on site in 2016. The installation of pSCT’s 9.7-meter primary mirror surface, consisting of 48 aspheric mirror panels, occurred in early 2018, and was followed by the camera installation in June 2018 and the 5.4-meter secondary mirror surface installation, consisting of 24 aspheric mirror panels, in August 2018.

    Leading up to the inauguration and in preparation for first light, scientists opened the telescope’s optical surfaces in January 2019. The SCT is based on a 114-year-old dual-mirror optical system first proposed by Karl Schwarzschild in 1905. It became possible to construct only recently as a result of critical research and development progress made at both the Brera Astronomical Observatory and Media Lario Technologies Incorporated in Italy.

    The pSCT was made possible by funding through the U.S. National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation program and by the contributions of thirty institutions and five critical industrial partners across the United States, Italy, Germany, Japan, and Mexico.

    More information about the pSCT is available online at http://www.cta-observatory.org/project/technology/sct.

    See the full article here .


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    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)


    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

  • richardmitnick 8:55 pm on October 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Crab Pulsar- a fast-rotating neutron star, CTA-Cherenkov Telescope Array, Gamma ray telescopes, ,   

    From H.E.S.S.: “The Crab Nebula is Extended” 

    HESS Cherenkov Telescope Array, located on the Cranz family farm, Göllschau, in Namibia, near the Gamsberg


    October 2017

    The Crab Nebula is one of the best-studied astrophysical objects of all time and shines across the whole accessible electromagnetic spectrum, from radio wavelengths up to very high energy (VHE, E > 100 GeV*) gamma-rays ([1], [2]).

    Supernova remnant Crab nebula. NASA/ESA Hubble

    X-ray picture of Crab pulsar, taken by Chandra

    It is powered by the Crab Pulsar, a fast-rotating neutron star (period P = 33 ms) possessing an ultra-strong magnetic field. It was created during a supernova explosion seen in the constellation Taurus in 1054 A.D. A part of the rotational energy of the Crab Pulsar is converted into electron-positron pairs, forming a pulsar wind. The electrons and positrons are shocked and accelerated to ultra-relativistic energies at the wind termination shock. These high-energy particles propagate outwards and lose energy via the emission of synchrotron and Inverse Compton (IC) radiation resulting from interactions with magnetic and photon fields, respectively. The synchrotron radiation ranges from the radio regime up to around 1 GeV, and its emissivity depends on the density of high-energy particles and the strength of the magnetic field. Thus, the spatial extent of the synchrotron emission is determined by a convolution of the local electron distributions with the magnetic field, where the latter is expected to vary significantly through the nebula. The second important emission mechanism is IC scattering: Energetic electrons and positrons can transfer a fraction of their energy onto photons thereby transforming these to high-energy and VHE gamma-rays. In the case of the Crab Nebula, the dominant target photon field is the synchrotron emission of the nebula itself, generated by the same particle population. This photon field is expected to be more homogeneous than the magnetic field. Thus the IC emission can be taken as a much more reliable tracer of the distribution of relativistic electrons, revealing more about the underlying physics of one of the Milky Way’s most prominent and interesting particle accelerators.

    Fig 1: Top: Distribution of gamma-ray candidates from the Crab Nebula (Data ON) together with background events (Data OFF) as a function of the squared distance to the source position. The simulated PSF and the PSF convolved with the best-fit Gaussian are shown for comparison as well. Bottom: Significance of the bin-wise deviation (MC – Data) of the measured events when compared to the PSF (black) and the convolved one (orange).

    Until now, the morphology of the Crab Nebula has only been resolved with radio, optical, and X-ray telescopes, up to photon energies of around 80 keV [1,3]; at higher energies, no extension could be measured mainly due to the worse angular resolution of the corresponding instruments. For telescopes like H.E.S.S., the expected size of the Crab Nebula is several times smaller than the point spread function (PSF**). In such a case, the intrinsic extension of the source only leads to a slight broadening of the signal as compared to the PSF, which itself however strongly depends on the actual observation and instrument conditions. For the first time, we employ simulations that take into account all these conditions and thus lead to a considerably improved PSF description [4]. This allows to probe source extensions well below one arcminute***, which corresponds to a new level of resolving source sizes in VHE gamma-ray astronomy.

    Here we used 25.7 hours of high-quality observations of the Crab Nebula, taken with all four of the small telescopes of H.E.S.S. The analysis settings were chosen to achieve a good PSF; for this source and observation conditions, 68% of the gamma-rays from a point source are reconstructed within 0.05° (3 arcminutes) of the source direction.

    The distribution of events from the Crab Nebula as a function of the (squared) distance to the source is shown in Figure 1 (blue crosses). For comparison, the PSF is shown as well (black) and is obviously highly inconsistent with the data, where the probability for consistency of the two distributions amounts to merely around 10-14. The broadening of the data distribution with respect to the PSF can only be explained when assuming an intrinsic source extension. The PSF was iteratively convolved with a Gaussian source model of different width. The extension is obtained by comparing the compatibility of the data and the convolved PSF each time, and the best-fit extension is found to be σCrab = 52.2” ± 2.9” ± 7.8”sys. This Gaussian width σCrab corresponds to 39% source containment. The size of the Crab Nebula in gamma-rays has been measured for the first time and can now be put in context to its morphology seen at other wavelengths.

    Fig 2: Extension of the Crab Nebula as seen with H.E.S.S. (solid white circles, corresponding to Gaussian width), overplotted on the UV (top) and X-ray (bottom) image. The bright dot in the middle corresponds to emission from the Crab Pulsar, whereas the inner ring around the pulsar that is visible in the X-ray image is supposed to be related to the wind termination shock ([5], [6]). For illustration purposes, the VHE extension circle is centered on the pulsar position.

    Our resulting Gaussian width is overplotted on images of the Crab Nebula at UV wavelengths (λ = 291 nm) and X-ray energies (0.1 – 10 keV) on the top and bottom of Figure 2, respectively. While the gamma-ray extension is obviously small compared to the optical/UV size, it is the other way around when comparing the gamma-ray to X-ray extension. This can be understood when considering the energetics of the electron population responsible for the respective emission.

    The X-ray emission of the Crab Nebula is confined to a smaller region than the UV emission, because the latter is mainly from electrons with E ~ 1 TeV, whereas the former, the X-ray emission, is mainly from electrons with larger energies (~ 10 TeV). Since electrons lose energy more efficiently at higher energies, a shrinking of the pulsar wind nebula with increasing energy is indeed expected. Until now, the window between UV and X-ray energies and the corresponding morphology has never been constrained observationally. Now with our new H.E.S.S. measurement, we are closing that gap by measuring the extension of the IC emission of the Crab Nebula in the range where electrons with energies of several TeV dominate. This naturally explains why the size we obtain lies in between the UV and X-ray extension.

    Resolving the extension of the Crab Nebula with the H.E.S.S. array is a milestone in the study of the gamma-ray sky with Cherenkov telescopes, and demonstrates the power of simulations to characterize the instrument performance, with potential applications for the upcoming CTA era.

    (*) 1 GeV = 109 eV and one eV (abbreviation of electron-volt) is a unit of energy which, by definition, represents the amount of energy gained by an electron when accelerated by an electric potential difference of 1 volt.

    (**) The PSF corresponds to the distribution of reconstructed event directions from a point source. In other words, it describes how a gamma-ray point source appears widened up the instrument.

    (***) One arcminute corresponds to 1/60th of 1°. An arcminute (or 1′) can be further subdivided into 60 arcseconds (60”). 1° thus equals 3600”, making it the angular equivalent of an hour.

    References [sorry, no links]:

    [1] Hester, J. J. The Crab Nebula: An Astrophysical Chimera. ARA&A 46, 127-155 (Sept. 2008)
    [2] Bühler, R. & Blandford, R.: The surprising Crab pulsar and its nebula: a review. Reports on Progress in Physics 77, 066901 (June 2014)
    [3] Madsen et al.: Broadband X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy of the Crab Nebula and Pulsar with NuStar. ApJ 801, 66 (March 2015)
    [4] Holler et al.: Run-Wise Simulations for Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescope Arrays. Proceedings of the 35th ICRC, contribution 755 (July 2017)
    [5] Weisskopf et al.: Discovery of Spatial and Spectral Structure in the X-ray Emission from the Crab Nebula. ApJ Letter 536, 81-84 (June 2000)
    [6] Gaensler, B. M. & Slane, P. O.: The Evolution and Structure of Pulsar Wind Nebulae. ARA&A 44, 17-47 (Sept. 2006)

    See the full article here .

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    The High Energy Stereoscopic System

    H.E.S.S. is a system of Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes that investigates cosmic gamma rays in the energy range from 10s of GeV to 10s of TeV. The name H.E.S.S. stands for High Energy Stereoscopic System, and is also intended to pay homage to Victor Hess , who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1936 for his discovery of cosmic radiation. The instrument allows scientists to explore gamma-ray sources with intensities at a level of a few thousandths of the flux of the Crab nebula (the brightest steady source of gamma rays in the sky). H.E.S.S. is located in Namibia, near the Gamsberg mountain, an area well known for its excellent optical quality. The first of the four telescopes of Phase I of the H.E.S.S. project went into operation in Summer 2002; all four were operational in December 2003, and were officially inaugurated on September 28, 2004. A much larger fifth telescope – H.E.S.S. II – is operational since July 2012, extending the energy coverage towards lower energies and further improving sensitivity.

    Crab nebula

  • richardmitnick 5:40 am on October 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , ESA e-ASTROGAM, Gamma ray telescopes, ,   

    From astrobites: “Future Gamma-ray Telescopes and the Search for Dark Matter” 

    Astrobites bloc


    Oct 3, 2017
    Nora Shipp

    Title: Resolving Dark Matter Subhalos With Future Sub-GeV Gamma-Ray Telescopes
    Authors: Ti-Lin Chou, Dimitrios Tanoglidis, and Dan Hooper
    First Author’s Institution: Dept. of Physics, University of Chicago, USA

    Status: Submitted to the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (open access)

    We are surrounded by undetected dark matter.

    Caterpillar Project A Milky-Way-size dark-matter halo and its subhalos circled, an enormous suite of simulations . Griffen et al. 2016

    In fact, our entire Galaxy is enveloped in a large halo of it, but because dark matter does not emit or reflect light, the halo is completely invisible.

    Dark matter halo Image credit: Virgo consortium / A. Amblard / ESA

    Milky Way NASA/JPL-Caltech /ESO R. Hurt

    Inside this halo, orbiting our galaxy, are hundreds of smaller, equally invisible dark matter halos (Figure 1).

    Figure 1. Galaxies like the Milky Way are surrounded by small dark matter halos (blue blobs). Some of these halos contain no stars, but could still produce gamma-rays from dark matter annihilation! Source: ESO

    The larger ones contain their own dwarf galaxies, but the smallest halos are so tiny that they contain no stars at all. However, if the leading theory of WIMP (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle) dark matter is correct, there is one way that we could actually see these dark matter halos without the help of any stars. If dark matter particles are their own antiparticle, they would annihilate when they come into contact with each other, producing various particles, including highly energetic photons known as gamma-rays.

    Gamma-rays have millions of times more energy than the optical photons that human eyes can see, yet these energetic particles are quite difficult to detect. The current leader in gamma-ray detection is the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a satellite that has been orbiting the Earth, searching the sky for gamma-rays, for almost 10 years.

    NASA/Fermi Telescope

    NASA/Fermi LAT

    Since Fermi was first launched, scientists have searched the gamma-ray sky for evidence of dark matter annihilation. What makes this search really tricky is that dark matter is not the only thing that produces gamma-rays. The sky is actually full of gamma-rays coming from all directions, produced by clouds of gas, pulsars, and active galactic nuclei, among many other sources (Figure 2 [not shown in article, replaced here).

    Fermi’s Latest Gamma-ray Census Highlights Cosmic Mysteries

    However, those tiny dark matter halos that don’t contain stars or gas or any kind of non-dark matter should only be producing gamma-rays from dark matter annihilation. The catch is that we have no idea where these dark matter halos are. Scientists, therefore, have searched all across the sky for gamma-rays that might be coming from dark halos, and they just might have found a couple.

    Two sources of gamma-rays fit all the requirements – they are in the right part of the sky, do not emit any other kind of light (as you’d expect from a halo containing only dark matter), and appear to extend wider across the sky than the single point of a far away star. However, it’s impossible to tell whether these sources are really extended like a dark matter halo or whether they are just two star-like points so close to each other that they blur together, appearing to Fermi as a single blob. Today’s paper considers whether a proposed successor to Fermi called e-ASTROGAM (Figure 3) will be able to resolve the mystery of these gamma-ray blobs.

    Figure 3. A model of e-Astrogam, one potential successor to the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Source: ESA

    Are they in fact dark matter halos (in which case this would be the first confirmed detection of dark matter annihilation!) or are they simply two points blurred into one?

    e-ASTROGAM would be quite similar to Fermi, but with several important changes. The biggest difference is that it would be able to detect gamma-rays at a slightly lower energy than Fermi, giving us a brand new view of the gamma-ray sky. In the context of today’s paper, however, the most significant difference is the angular resolution. Angular resolution determines how close together two objects can get before they blur together into a single blob. The angular resolution of e-ASTROGAM will be about 4-6 times better than Fermi’s in the energy range of these mysterious gamma-ray sources. According to the authors of today’s paper, this should definitely be enough to tell whether they are single extended objects or two independent points that are just too close together for Fermi to see (Figure 4).

    Figure 4. Simulated images of two point sources as seen by Fermi and e-ASTROGAM. On the left, Fermi is unable to distinguish between the two objects, seeing only a single blob of gamma-rays. On the right, e-ASTROGAM, with its superior angular resolution, can tell that the single blob is actually two individual objects. Source: Figure 3 of the paper.

    In order to see just how well e-ASTROGAM will be able to see these objects, the authors modeled fake observations of dark matter annihilation from an extended halo and from two point sources. They determined for different halo sizes and dark matter particles how well e-ASTROGAM will be able to tell whether an object is one extended source or two points. Figure 5 illustrates the difference e-ASTROGAM will make in confirming the nature of these gamma-ray sources. The green and red lines represent how easily Fermi and e-ASTROGAM can distinguish pairs of sources (x-axis) as a function of source brightness (y-axis). e-ASTROGAM reaches much farther along the x-axis, indicating that it can much more easily resolve two point sources. The precise numbers change for different dark matter halos and particles, but in all cases e-ASTROGAM shows a significant improvement over Fermi.

    Figure 5. This plot illustrates how e-ASTROGAM will be able to help distinguish between extended dark matter halos and two nearby points. The y-axis shows how bright the object in question is, and the x-axis is related to how easily the telescope can distinguish between two nearby points and a single extended object. Even with really bright objects Fermi (green) has a hard time distinguishing between the two scenarios, while e-ASTROGAM (red) can more easily tell the difference. Source: Figure 5 of the paper.

    A future gamma-ray telescope like e-ASTROGAM will be an essential tool in determining whether Fermi has in fact detected dark matter annihilation from dark halos. In addition to determining whether the two potential halos detected by Fermi are actually just pairs of close-together point sources, e-ASTROGAM may be able to detect gamma-rays from even more dark matter halos that are too faint for Fermi to observe on its own. e-ASTROGAM with its superior angular resolution and lower energy range would provide a brand new view of the gamma-ray universe, giving us unexpected insight into known and unknown sources of gamma-rays, and perhaps finally revealing the nature of dark matter.

    See the full article here .

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    What do we do?

    Astrobites is a daily astrophysical literature journal written by graduate students in astronomy. Our goal is to present one interesting paper per day in a brief format that is accessible to undergraduate students in the physical sciences who are interested in active research.
    Why read Astrobites?

    Reading a technical paper from an unfamiliar subfield is intimidating. It may not be obvious how the techniques used by the researchers really work or what role the new research plays in answering the bigger questions motivating that field, not to mention the obscure jargon! For most people, it takes years for scientific papers to become meaningful.
    Our goal is to solve this problem, one paper at a time. In 5 minutes a day reading Astrobites, you should not only learn about one interesting piece of current work, but also get a peek at the broader picture of research in a new area of astronomy.

  • richardmitnick 7:57 am on July 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Gamma ray telescopes, How non-optical telescopes see the universe, Infrared telescopes, , Optical telescopes, Pair production telescope, , Ultraviolet telescopes, X-ray telescopes   

    From COSMOS: “How non-optical telescopes see the universe” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    24 July 2017
    Jake Port

    The human eye can only see a tiny band of the electromagnetic spectrum. That tiny band is enough for most day-to-day things you might want to do on Earth, but stars and other celestial objects radiate energy at wavelengths from the shortest (high-energy, high-frequency gamma rays) to the longest (low-energy, low-frequency radio waves).

    The electromagnetic spectrum is made up of radiation of all frequencies and wavelengths. Only a tiny range is visible to the human eye. NASA.

    Beyond the visible spectrum

    To see what’s happening in the distant reaches of the spectrum, astronomers use non-optical telescopes. There are several varieties, each specialised to catch radiation of particular wavelengths.

    Non-optical telescopes utilise many of the techniques found in regular telescopes, but also employ a variety of techniques to convert invisible light into spectacular imagery. In all cases, a detector is used to capture the image rather than an eyepiece, with a computer then processing the data and constructing the final image.

    There are also more exotic ways of looking at the universe that don’t use electromagnetic radiation at all, like neutrino telescopes and the cutting-edge gravitational wave telescopes, but they’re a separate subject of their own.

    To start off, let’s go straight to the top with the highest-energy radiation, gamma rays.

    Gamma ray telescopes

    Gamma radiation is generally defined as radiation of wavelengths less than 10−11 m, or a hundredth of a nanometre.

    Gamma-ray telescopes focus on the highest-energy phenomena in the universe, such as black holes and exploding stars. A high-energy gamma ray may contain a billion times as much energy as a photon of visible light, which can make them difficult to study.

    Unlike photons of visible light, that can be redirected using mirrors and reflectors, gamma rays simply pass through most materials. This means that gamma-ray telescopes must use sophisticated techniques that track the movement of individual gamma rays to construct an image.

    One technology that does this, in use in the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope among other places, is called a pair production telescope.

    NASA/Fermi Telescope

    It uses a multi-layer sandwich of converter and detector materials. When a gamma ray enters the front of the detector it hits a converter layer, made of dense material such as lead, which causes the gamma-ray to produce an electron and a positron (known as a particle-antiparticle pair).

    The electron and the positron then continue to traverse the telescope, passing through layers of detector material. These layers track the movement of each particle by recording slight bursts of electrical charge along the layer. This trail of bursts allows astronomers to reconstruct the energy and direction of the original gamma ray. Tracing back along that path points to the source of the ray out in space. This data can then be used to create an image.

    The video below shows how this works in the space-based Fermi Large Area Telescope.

    NASA/Fermi LAT

    X-ray telescopes

    X-rays are radiation with wavelengths between 10 nanometres and 0.01 nanometres. They are used every day to image broken bones and scan suitcases in airports and can also be used to image hot gases floating in space. Celestial gas clouds and remnants of the explosive deaths of large stars, known as supernovas, are the focus of X-ray telescopes.

    Like gamma rays, X-rays are a high-energy form of radiation that can pass straight through most materials. To catch X-rays you need to use materials that are very dense.

    X-ray telescopes often use highly reflective mirrors that are coated with dense metals such as gold, nickel or iridium. Unlike optical mirrors, which can bounce light in any direction, these mirrors can only slightly deflect the path of the X-ray. The mirror is orientated almost parallel to the direction of the incoming X-rays. The X-rays lightly graze the mirror before moving on, a little like a stone skipping on a pond. By using lots of mirrors, each changing the direction of the radiation by a small amount, enough X-rays can be collected at the detector to produce an image.

    To maximise image quality the mirrors are loosely stacked, creating an internal structure resembling the layers of an onion.

    Diagram showing how ‘grazing incidence’ mirrors are used in X-ray telescopes. NASA.

    NASA/Chandra X-ray Telescope

    ESA/XMM Newton X-ray telescope

    NASA NuSTAR X-ray telescope

    Ultraviolet telescopes

    Ultraviolet light is radiation with wavelengths just too short to be visible to human eyes, between 400 nanometres and 0.01 nanometres. It has less energy than X-rays and gamma rays, and ultraviolet telescopes are more like optical ones.

    Mirrors coated in materials that reflect UV radiation, such as silicon carbide, can be used to redirect and focus incoming light. The Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope, which flew two short missions aboard the space shuttle in the 1990s, used a parabolic mirror coated with this material.

    A schematic of the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope. NASA.

    NASA Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope which flew on the ISS

    As redirected light reaches the focal point, a central point where all light beams converge, they are detected using a spectrogram. This specialised device can separate the UV light into individual wavelength bands in a way akin to splitting visible light into a rainbow.

    Analysis of this spectrogram can indicate what the observation target is made of. This allows astronomers to analyse the composition of interstellar gas clouds, galactic centres and planets in our solar system. This can be particularly useful when looking for elements essential to carbon-based life such as oxygen and carbon.

    Optical telescopes

    Optical telescopes are used to view the visible spectrum: wavelengths roughly between 400 and 700 nanometres. See separate article here.

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA

    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    Gran Telescopio Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, Spain, sited on a volcanic peak 2,267 metres (7,438 ft) above sea level

    Gemini/North telescope at Maunakea, Hawaii, USA

    Gemini South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile

    Infrared telescopes

    Sitting just below visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum is infrared light, with wavelengths between 700 nanometres and 1 millimetre.

    It’s used in night vision goggles, heaters and tracking devices as found in heat-seeking missiles. Any object or material that is hotter than absolute zero will emit some amount of infrared radiation, so the infrared band is a useful window to look at the universe through.

    Much infrared radiation is absorbed by water vapour in the atmosphere, so infrared telescopes are usually at high altitudes in dry places or even in space, like the Spitzer Space Telescope.

    Infrared telescopes are often very similar to optical ones. Mirrors and reflectors are used to direct the infrared light to a detector at the focal point. The detector registers the incoming radiation, which a computer then converts into a digital image.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    Radio telescopes

    At the far end of the electromagnetic spectrum we find the radio waves, with frequencies less than 1000 megahertz and wavelengths of a metre and more. Radio waves penetrate the atmosphere easily, unlike higher-frequency radiation, so ground-based observatories can catch them.

    Radio telescopes feature three main components that each play an important role in capturing and processing incoming radio signals.

    The first is the massive antenna or ‘dish’ that faces the sky. The Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia, for instance, has a dish with a diameter of 64 metres, while the Aperture Spherical Telescope in southwest China is has a whopping 500-metre diameter.

    The great size allows for the collection of long wavelengths and very quiet signals. The dish is parabolic, directing radio waves collected over a large area to be focused to a receiver sitting in front of the dish. The larger the antenna, the weaker the radio source that can be detected, allowing larger telescopes to see more distant and faint objects billions of light years away.

    The receiver works with an amplifier to boost the very weak radio signal to make it strong enough for measurement. Receivers today are so sensitive that they use powerful coolers to minimise thermal noise generated by the movement of atoms in the metal of the structure.

    Finally, a recorder stores the radio signal for later processing and analysis.

    Radio telescopes are used to observe a wide array of subjects, including energetic pulsar and quasar systems, galaxies, nebulae, and of course to listen out for potential alien signals.

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    See the full article here .

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