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  • richardmitnick 2:13 pm on September 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NOAO Kitt Peak,   

    From tuscon.com via NOAO: “Kitt Peak finds new uses for old scopes as mission shifts” 

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    tuscon.com
    tuscon.com

    9.21.15
    Tom Beal

    Kitt Peak has now found new uses for all of the optical telescopes orphaned by the National Science Foundation when it announced defunding in 2012.

    The smallest orphan, the 2.1-meter telescope, is expected to be fitted with a robotic adaptive-optics imager developed by Caltech and scientists in India.

    NOAO Kitt Peak 2.1 meter telescope
    NOAO Kitt Peak 2.1 meter telescope

    The largest, the behemoth 4-meter Mayall, just won approval from the Department of Energy for a long-anticipated plan to turn it into a 5,000-fiber spectroscope, capable of collecting scads of data on early galaxies and plumbing the mysteries of dark energy and matter.

    NOAO Mayall 4 m telescope exterior
    NOAO Mayall 4 m telescope interior
    NOAO Kitt Peak 4 meter Mayall telescope

    The downside is that the “national observatory” will have very little time left on its telescopes for competitive projects from the astronomical community — the purpose for which Kitt Peak was built in the 1960s.

    The fate of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, meanwhile, remains uncertain as the National Science Foundation redirects its solar astronomy funding to a new-generation telescope in Hawaii.

    NOAO Kitt Peak McMath-Pierce Solar telecope
    NOAO Kitt Peak McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope

    NSF support of the telescope, through the National Solar Observatory, runs out at the end of 2016.

    “It’s a pretty good landing from where we were a few years ago,” said Robert Blum, deputy director of Tucson-based National Optical Astronomy Observatory, which operates the telescopes on behalf of NSF.

    In addition to the Mayall and the 2.1-meter telescope, NOAO is also a partner in the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope on the mountain.

    NOAO WIYN Telescope
    NOAO WIYN Telescope
    NOAO WIYN 3.5-meter telescope

    Its share in that facility has been taken on by NASA, which plans to install a new instrument that will be used in follow-up studies of exoplanets found by its space telescopes.

    Approval of a funding and construction schedule for the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) on the Mayall Telescope was announced Monday by the U.S. Department of Energy, which is providing much of the $50 million cost of building it.

    DESI Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument
    DESI, project being managed by LBL

    It is scheduled to be operating by the end of 2019.

    A team of more than 200 physicists and astronomers, based at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will use data from DESI to create the largest three-dimensional map of the universe ever made.

    DESI is a 5-ton instrument that can simultaneously collect light from 5,000 galaxies and quasars through optical fibers positioned by tiny robot arms.

    Measuring spectra (the rainbow of colors in light), it can determine the distances in space of those objects. “It will gather more spectra in one survey than has been gathered by all previous surveys combined,” Blum said.

    Mayall was built in the early 1970s “like a battleship,” Natalie Roe of Berkeley Labs said in a news release. With a moving weight of 375 tons, it can easily support 5-ton DESI. “The DESI spectrometer will update this old battleship to world-leading capability,” the news release said.

    The smaller, 2.1-meter telescope will be robotically operated. Robo-AO was developed by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune, India, according to an NOAO newsletter.

    Kitt Peak Director Lori Allen said she could not talk about the Robo-AO project until Caltech finalizes the project and issues a news release on it, but she and Caltech’s Reed Riddle described the project in NOAO’s September newsletter as “the only autonomous laser guide star adaptive optics (AO) instrument.”

    Adaptive optics measures and adjusts for the blurring that all ground-based telescopes encounter because of Earth’s atmosphere. A laser is used to project an “artificial star” to make those measurements.

    Robo-AO has demonstrated its ability to provide atmosphere-corrected images in both visible and infrared light during a three-year trial at a 1.5-meter telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory near San Diego, according to the newsletter.

    Caltech Palomar 1.5 meter 60 inch telescope
    Caltech Palomar 1.5 meter 60 inch telescope interior
    Caltech’s Palomar Observatory 1.5-meter telescope

    At Kitt Peak, Robo-AO will have a larger mirror, clearer skies and more nights on sky.

    The newsletter article also says one-sixth of Robo-AO’s time will be given over to competitive proposals from the astronomical community.

    Before defunding, the 2.1-meter telescope on Kitt Peak was given fully to community time. That was also the original role of Mayall.

    NOAO Director David Silva said projects such as the Mayall conversion mark a shift for NOAO and astronomy in general. Instead of providing telescope time for individual projects, Mayall will now provide vast amounts of data for researchers to mine.

    “This is not just us. This is astronomy everywhere,” Allen said. “One can argue that we are serving a larger community than we have in the past.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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    NOAO News
    NOAO is the US national research & development center for ground-based night time astronomy. In particular, NOAO is enabling the development of the US optical-infrared (O/IR) System, an alliance of public and private observatories allied for excellence in scientific research, education and public outreach.

    Our core mission is to provide public access to qualified professional researchers via peer-review to forefront scientific capabilities on telescopes operated by NOAO as well as other telescopes throughout the O/IR System. Today, these telescopes range in aperture size from 2-m to 10-m. NOAO is participating in the development of telescopes with aperture sizes of 20-m and larger as well as a unique 8-m telescope that will make a 10-year movie of the Southern sky.

    In support of this mission, NOAO is engaged in programs to develop the next generation of telescopes, instruments, and software tools necessary to enable exploration and investigation through the observable Universe, from planets orbiting other stars to the most distant galaxies in the Universe.

    To communicate the excitement of such world-class scientific research and technology development, NOAO has developed a nationally recognized Education and Public Outreach program. The main goals of the NOAO EPO program are to inspire young people to become explorers in science and research-based technology, and to reach out to groups and individuals who have been historically under-represented in the physics and astronomy science enterprise.

    The National Optical Astronomy Observatory is proud to be a US National Node in the International Year of Astronomy, 2009.

    About Our Observatories:
    Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO)

    Kitt Peak

    Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) has its headquarters in Tucson and operates the Mayall 4-meter, the 3.5-meter WIYN , the 2.1-meter and Coudé Feed, and the 0.9-meter telescopes on Kitt Peak Mountain, about 55 miles southwest of the city.

    Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO)

    NOAO Cerro Tolo

    The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) is located in northern Chile. CTIO operates the 4-meter, 1.5-meter, 0.9-meter, and Curtis Schmidt telescopes at this site.

    The NOAO System Science Center (NSSC)

    Gemini North
    Gemini North

    Gemini South telescope
    Gemini South

    The NOAO System Science Center (NSSC) at NOAO is the gateway for the U.S. astronomical community to the International Gemini Project: twin 8.1 meter telescopes in Hawaii and Chile that provide unprecendented coverage (northern and southern skies) and details of our universe.

    NOAO is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy under a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:31 am on June 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NOAO Kitt Peak   

    From JPL: “NASA Satellites Catch a ‘Growth Spurt’ from a Newborn Protostar” 

    JPL

    March 23, 2015
    Francis Reddy, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    1
    Infrared images from instruments at Kitt Peak National Observatory (left) and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope document the outburst of HOPS 383, a young protostar in the Orion star-formation complex. The background is a wide view of the region taken from a Spitzer four-color infrared mosaic.

    Using data from orbiting observatories, including NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, and from ground-based facilities, an international team of astronomers has discovered an outburst from a star thought to be in the earliest phase of its development.

    NASA Spitzer Telescope
    Spitzer

    The eruption, scientists say, reveals a sudden accumulation of gas and dust by an exceptionally young star, or protostar, known as HOPS 383.

    Stars form within collapsing fragments of cold gas clouds. As the cloud contracts under its own gravity, its central region becomes denser and hotter. By the end of this process, the collapsing fragment has transformed into a hot central protostar surrounded by a dusty disk roughly equal in mass, embedded in a dense envelope of gas and dust. Astronomers call this a “Class 0” protostar.

    “HOPS 383 is the first outburst we’ve ever seen from a Class 0 object, and it appears to be the youngest protostellar eruption ever recorded,” said William Fischer, a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    The Class 0 phase is short-lived, lasting roughly 150,000 years, and is considered the earliest developmental stage for stars like the sun.

    A protostar has not yet developed the energy-generating capabilities of a sun-like star, which fuses hydrogen into helium in its core. Instead, a protostar shines from the heat energy released by its contraction and by the accumulation of material from the disk of gas and dust surrounding it. The disk may one day develop asteroids, comets and planets.

    Because these infant suns are thickly swaddled in gas and dust, their visible light cannot escape. But the light warms dust around the protostar, which reradiates the energy in the form of heat detectable by infrared-sensitive instruments on ground-based telescopes and orbiting satellites.

    HOPS 383 is located near NGC 1977, a nebula in the constellation Orion, and is a part of its sprawling star-formation complex. Located about 1,400 light-years from Earth, the region constitutes the most active nearby “star factory” and hosts a treasure trove of young stellar objects still embedded in their natal clouds.

    A team led by Thomas Megeath at the University of Toledo in Ohio used Spitzer to identify more than 300 protostars in the Orion complex. A follow-on project using the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, called the Herschel Orion Protostar Survey (HOPS), studied many of these objects in greater detail.

    ESA Herschel
    ESA/Herschel

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages Spitzer and, while Herschel was still active, managed the U.S. portion of that mission as well.

    The eruption of HOPS 383 was first recognized in 2014 by astronomer Emily Safron shortly after her graduation from the University of Toledo. Under the supervision of Megeath and Fischer, she had just completed her senior thesis comparing the decade-old Spitzer Orion survey with 2010 observations from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite, which was also managed by JPL.

    NASA Wise Telescope
    WISE

    Using software to analyze the data, Safron had already run through it several times without finding anything new. But with her thesis completed and graduation behind her, she decided to take the extra time to compare images of the “funny objects” by eye.

    That’s when she noticed HOPS 383’s dramatic change. “This beautiful outburst was lurking in our sample the whole time,” Safron said.

    Safron’s catalog of observations included Spitzer data at wavelengths of 3.6, 4.5 and 24 microns and WISE data at 3.4, 4.6 and 22 microns. HOPS 383 is so deeply enshrouded in dust that it wasn’t seen at all before the outburst at the shortest Spitzer wavelength, and an oversight in a version of the catalog produced before Safron’s involvement masked the increase at the longest wavelengths. As a result, her software saw a rise in brightness in only one wavelength out of three, which failed to meet her criteria for the changes she was hoping to find.

    Once they realized what had happened, Safron, Fischer and their colleagues gathered additional Spitzer data, Herschel observations, and images from ground-based infrared telescopes at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona and the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment in northern Chile. Their findings were published in the Feb. 10 edition of The Astrophysical Journal.

    4
    Kitt Peak National Observatory

    ESO APEX
    ESO/APEX

    The first hint of brightening appears in Spitzer data beginning in 2006. By 2008, they write, HOPS 383’s brightness at a wavelength of 24 microns had increased by 35 times. According to the most recent data available, from 2012, the eruption shows no sign of abating.

    “An outburst lasting this long rules out many possibilities, and we think HOPS 383 is best explained by a sudden increase in the amount of gas the protostar is accreting from the disk around it,” explained Fischer.

    Scientists suspect that instabilities in the disk lead to episodes where large quantities of material flow onto the central protostar. The star develops an extreme hot spot at the impact point, which in turn heats up the disk, and both brighten dramatically.

    The team continues to monitor HOPS 383 and has proposed new observations using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), the world’s largest flying telescope.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    For more information about Spitzer, visit:

    http://spitzer.caltech.edu

    http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

    Caltech Logo
    jpl

     
  • richardmitnick 12:32 pm on April 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NOAO Kitt Peak   

    From NOAO: “Star Birth in Cepheus” 

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    NOAO News

    April 1, 2013
    Dr. Katy Garmany

    “Watching starbirth isn’t easy: tens of millions of years are needed to form a star like our Sun. Much like archeologists who reconstruct ancient cities from shards of debris strewn over time, astronomers must reconstruct the birth process of stars indirectly, by observing stars in different stages of the process and inferring the changes that take place. Studies show that half of the common stars, including our Sun, formed in massive clusters, rich with young stars, from which they eventually escape. As part of his PhD thesis work, Thomas Allen, University of Toledo, has been observing such a region where stars are forming.

    cep

    Named Cep OB3b, this cluster is located in the northern constellation of Cepheus, and is similar in some ways to the famous cluster found in the Orion Nebula. But unlike the Orion Nebula, there is relatively little dust and gas obscuring our view of Cep OB3b. Its massive, hot stars have blown out cavities in the gaseous cloud with their intense ultraviolet radiation which mercilessly destroys everything in its path. Cep OB3b may show us what the Orion Nebular Cluster will look like in the future.

    In a recently published paper, Allen and an international team of astronomers from seven different Universities and Institutes (University of Toledo, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, University of Rochester, University of Exeter, Keele University, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Space Telescope Science Institute) have found that the total number of young stars in the cluster is as high as 3000. Infrared observations of the stars from the NASA Spitzer satellite show about 1000 stars that are surrounded by disks of gas and dust from which solar systems may form. As the stars age, the disks disappear as the dust and gas get converted into planets or are dispersed into space. As Allen says, ‘By studying nearby massive young clusters like Cep OB3b, we can gain a greater understanding of the environments out of which planets form.’

    These observations pointed to a new mystery. Although the stars in Cep OB3b are thought to be about three million years old, in some parts of the cluster most of the stars had lost their disks, suggesting that the stars in those parts were older. This suggests that the cluster is surrounded by older stars, potential relics of previous clusters that have since expanded and dispersed. To search for evidence for these relic clusters, Allen used the Mosaic camera on the 0.9 meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory to observe wide field images of CepOB3b. (See figure) These images show hot gas and its interaction with the stars and permit the team to study a curious cavity in the gas for evidence of older, yet still juvenile, stars that have lost their disks of gas and dust. With these data, the team is searching for the previous generations of star formation in the region surrounding Cep OB3b, and piecing together the history of star formation in this magnificent region. When finished, this may tell us how previous generations may have influenced the current generation of stars and planets forming in Cep OB3b.”

    See the full article here.

    NOAO is the US national research & development center for ground-based night time astronomy. In particular, NOAO is enabling the development of the US optical-infrared (O/IR) System, an alliance of public and private observatories allied for excellence in scientific research, education and public outreach.

    Our core mission is to provide public access to qualified professional researchers via peer-review to forefront scientific capabilities on telescopes operated by NOAO as well as other telescopes throughout the O/IR System. Today, these telescopes range in aperture size from 2-m to 10-m. NOAO is participating in the development of telescopes with aperture sizes of 20-m and larger as well as a unique 8-m telescope that will make a 10-year movie of the Southern sky.

    In support of this mission, NOAO is engaged in programs to develop the next generation of telescopes, instruments, and software tools necessary to enable exploration and investigation through the observable Universe, from planets orbiting other stars to the most distant galaxies in the Universe.

    To communicate the excitement of such world-class scientific research and technology development, NOAO has developed a nationally recognized Education and Public Outreach program. The main goals of the NOAO EPO program are to inspire young people to become explorers in science and research-based technology, and to reach out to groups and individuals who have been historically under-represented in the physics and astronomy science enterprise.

    The National Optical Astronomy Observatory is proud to be a US National Node in the International Year of Astronomy, 2009.

    About Our Observatories:
    Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO)

    Kitt Peak

    Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) has its headquarters in Tucson and operates the Mayall 4-meter, the 3.5-meter WIYN , the 2.1-meter and Coudé Feed, and the 0.9-meter telescopes on Kitt Peak Mountain, about 55 miles southwest of the city.

    Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO)

    NOAO Cerro Tolo

    The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) is located in northern Chile. CTIO operates the 4-meter, 1.5-meter, 0.9-meter, and Curtis Schmidt telescopes at this site.

    The NOAO System Science Center (NSSC)

    Gemini North
    Gemini North

    The NOAO System Science Center (NSSC) at NOAO is the gateway for the U.S. astronomical community to the International Gemini Project: twin 8.1 meter telescopes in Hawaii and Chile that provide unprecendented coverage (northern and southern skies) and details of our universe.

    NOAO is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy under a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation.

     
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