Recently in the Telescopes Category

Four Lasers Over Paranal

On 26 April 2016 ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile hosted an event to mark the first light for the four powerful lasers that form a crucial part of the adaptive optics systems on ESO's Very Large Telescope.

NASA engineers recently unveiled the giant golden mirror of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope as part of the integration and testing of the infrared telescope.

Tibet's Ali: Asia's Atacama?

The Ngari (Ali) prefecture of Tibet, one of the highest areas in the world, has recently emerged as a promising site for future astronomical observation.

Using an orbiting radio-astronomy satellite combined with 15 ground-based radio telescopes, astronomers have made the highest-resolution, or most-detailed, astronomical image yet, revealing new insights about a gorging black hole in a galaxy 900 million light-years from Earth.

Europe's NIRSpec instrument will be launched in 2018 as part of the NASAESA James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA has successfully installed the first of 18 flight mirrors onto the James Webb Space Telescope, beginning a critical piece of the observatory's construction.

A team led by the California Institute of Technology has been selected to transform the venerable 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory into the first dedicated adaptive optics (AO) observatory for astronomy.

At a recent meeting ESO's main governing body, the Council, gave the green light for the construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in two phases.

Follow the Dust to Find Planets

Researchers studying what appears to be a beefed-up version of our solar system have discovered that it is encased in a halo of fine dust. The findings are based on infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory, in which NASA is a partner.

Work is underway to build the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), a telescope that could one day find signs of life on distant planets. With a 39-metre mirror, it will be the world's biggest optical and infrared telescope.

A Call for a Giant Space Telescope

In the nearly 25 years since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), astronomers and the public alike have enjoyed ground-breaking views of the cosmos and the suite of scientific discoveries that followed. The successor to HST, the James Webb Telescope, should launch in 2018 but will have a comparatively short lifetime.

An international team of astronomers, using NASA's Fermi observatory, has made the first-ever gamma-ray measurements of a gravitational lens, a kind of natural telescope formed when a rare cosmic alignment allows the gravity of a massive object to bend and amplify light from a more distant source.

NuSTAR Telescope in Space

NASA's newest X-ray telescope will have a lengthy structure that unfolds in space, allowing it to see high-energy objects like feeding black holes.

After appearing to stall late last week, the Planetary Resources Kickstarter campaign to raise $1 million for the E/PO ARKYD telescope has achieved its initial goal and was pushed over the top overnight.

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), in collaboration with its Canada and Taiwan partners, Japan, Europe and Chile, inaugurated the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) today, one of the world's most powerful telescopes, as part of an international ceremony in Chile.

"NASA is soliciting broad community inputs in support of a study activity focused on utilization of large flight qualified optical systems recently transferred to NASA from another Government Agency. The Study on Applications of Large Space Optics (SALSO) activity is a multistep process to develop a representative set of options for the use of these assets that draws on government, academic and industry capabilities to address Agency-wide needs. The goal of the overall study is to gather and assess concepts for possible utilization of the recently acquired systems for Agency goals aligned with 5 principal areas; space technology, human exploration and operations, heliophysics, planetary science, and astrophysics (excluding an infrared wide field survey). The SALSO activity consists of a managed workshop and follow-on study of concepts flowing from the workshop process. NASA encourages submission of concepts that address multiple NASA objectives (above); make innovative use of NASA capabilities and/or anticipated commercial services; and/or incorporate innovative processes or partnership arrangements." More

Scientists at the University of Arizona and in California have completed the most challenging large astronomical mirror ever made.

Rock on - A charitable foundation is to launch the first private, scientific space mission, Economist

"Budget cuts have hit NASA's science missions hard. NEOCam is not certain to fly, and the foundation worries that, although NASA has already catalogued most of the biggest, civilisation-ending asteroids, thousands of smaller rocks, of similar dimensions to the one that exploded over Siberia, remain undetected. If one were to hit the wrong part of the planet it would cause a catastrophe. Hence the shift in focus from deflection to discovery. Sentinel's mission will be broadly similar to NEOCam's. Both telescopes will have 50cm mirrors. Both will scan the sky in the infra-red spectrum, where dark but comparatively warm asteroids should show up brightly against the cold of deep space. Both will inhabit orbits between Earth and the sun, in order to get the best possible vantage point. The foundation's ambition is to produce an asteroid map that records 90% of near-Earth objects that are more than 140 metres across, and half of those bigger than 50 metres. Armed with data on their orbits and velocities, astronomers should be able to calculate which pose a threat over the coming century or so."

B612 Foundation Announces First Privately Funded Deep Space Mission

Donate to B612 Foundation

"Discovered by Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR), NEA (near-Earth asteroid) 2002 AM31, an asteroid the size of a city block, will make its close approach to Earth Sunday evening (July 22) -- just 39 days after newly discovered asteroid 2012 LZ1 paid an unexpected visit to Earth. Slooh Space Camera will cover its near-approach live on, free to the public, starting at 4:30 p.m. PDT / 7:30 p.m. EDT / 23:30 UTC -- accompanied by real-time discussions by Slooh's Patrick Paolucci and Astronomy magazine columnist Bob Berman."


Getting Science Beyond the Research Community: Examples of Education and Outreach from the IceCube Project

"The IceCube collaboration has built an in-ice neutrino telescope and a surface detector array, IceTop, at the South Pole. Over 5000 digital optical modules have been deployed in a cubic kilometer of ice between 1450 and 2450 m below the surface. The novel observatory provides a new window to explore the universe. The combination of cutting-edge discovery science and the exotic Antarctic environment is an ideal vehicle to excite and engage a wide audience. Examples of how the international IceCube Collaboration has brought the Universe to a broader audience via the South Pole are described."

Amateur Astronomers and the New Supernova

Amateur Astronomers Contribute Observations of the Brightest Supernova in 20 Years

"Skywatchers in the northern hemisphere are being treated to a rare, bright supernova in a nearby galaxy, and observers worldwide have the opportunity to contribute scientific data to our study of this object. This supernova, named SN 2011fe, exploded in the nearby spiral galaxy Messier 101 some time on August 24, 2011, and quickly became bright enough for backyard astronomers to observe with modest-sized telescopes. The supernova belongs to the class of objects called "Type Ia supernovae" that are caused by the explosion of a white dwarf in a binary star system."

For the second consecutive year, high school students from across Australia joined in a competition to obtain scientifically useful (and aesthetically pleasing) images using the Gemini Observatory. The 2010 winning student team suggested that Gemini focus on an interacting galaxy pair which, they assured, "would be more than just a pretty picture." The spectacular result of this contest, organized by the Australian Gemini Office (AusGO), can be seen at

A citizen science project running for over 100 years reached a key milestone this month when an amateur astronomer contributed the 20 millionth observation of a variable star on February 19, 2011. A variable star changes in brightness over time. Records of these changes can be used to uncover the astrophysical processes within evolving star systems. With a database going back over a century, variable star astronomers have access to a data source unparalleled in astronomy.

When astronomer John P. Huchra passed away in October 2010, his friends and colleagues at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) sought a way to honor his research and teaching legacies. One way has been the creation of a new interactive WorldWide Telescope (WWT) tour, "John Huchra's Universe," which was unveiled at the 217th AAS meeting in Seattle, Washington, on January 11, 2011, and is now available online. WWT is a free and very powerful interactive astronomy program from Microsoft Research.

STScI Space Astronomy Summer Program

Each summer, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) brings a dozen highly motivated college students to Baltimore, Maryland, for a Space Astronomy Summer Program. The Space Telescope Science Institute is the scientific operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and for the future James Webb Space Telescope. The Space Astronomy Summer Program runs ten weeks, from mid-June to mid-August, and is designed for upper division undergraduates with a strong interest in space astronomy. Students work individually with STScI researchers and staff on research projects that might include data reduction and interpretation, software development, scientific writing, preparing data for public releases. The program affords students the opportunity to attend lectures on a variety of exciting topics related to space astronomy, the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes. The Space Astronomy Summer Program provides students a fun educational experience within a team spirited environment. Students will receive a stipend of $5200 for the summer and housing assistance. More information

We report on the software architecture we developed for the Open University's remotely controlled telescope PIRATE. This facility is based in Mallorca and used in distance learning modules by undergraduate students and by postgraduate students for research projects. PIRATE (Physics Innovations Robotic Astronomical Telescope Explorer) is a largely Open University funded facility consisting of a small aperture reflecting telescope on a robotic mount, in a robotic dome on top of the main observatory building at the Observatori Astronomic de Mallorca (OAM). Initially, the optical tube assembly (OTA) was a 14 inch (35 cm) f/10 Schmidt Cassegrain telescope (a Celestron 14; PIRATE Mark I). In August 2010 this was upgraded to a PlaneWave Instruments CDK17, a 17 inch (0.43 m) f/6.8 corrected Dall-Kirkham astrograph telescope (PIRATE Mark II).

Amateurs Track Storm on Saturn

Cassini and Amateurs Chase Storm on Saturn

"With the help of amateur astronomers, the composite infrared spectrometer instrument aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft has taken its first look at a massive blizzard in Saturn's atmosphere. The instrument collected the most detailed data to date of temperatures and gas distribution in that planet's storms."