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http://www.facebook.com/ScienceReason ... ESOcast 30: First Images from the VLT Survey Telescope - VST and OmegaCAM start work.
This ESOcast introduces the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), the latest addition to ESO's Paranal Observatory. This new telescope has just made its first release of impressive images of the southern sky.
The VST is a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre telescope, with the huge 268-megapixel camera OmegaCAM at its heart. It is designed to map the sky both quickly and with very fine image quality.
It is a visible-light telescope that perfectly complements ESO's VISTA infrared survey telescope. New images of the Omega Nebula and the globular cluster Omega Centauri demonstrate the VST's power.
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A new telescope for mapping the skies is about to start work at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile. The VLT Survey Telescope, or VST, with the 268 megapixel OmegaCAM camera at its heart, is the latest addition to the observatory. It is the largest telescope in the world designed to survey the sky in visible light.
The special thing about the VST is that it has a very wide field of view — about twice as broad as the full Moon. It's dedicated to mapping the skies both very quickly and with very high image quality. The VST is housed in an enclosure right next to the VLT Unit Telescopes on the summit of Cerro Paranal under the pristine skies of one of the best observing sites on the planet.
Over the next few years the VST and its huge camera OmegaCAM will be busy making some very detailed maps of the southern skies and in this episode you'll get to see the very first released images from this brand new telescope.
The VST is a visible light telescope that perfectly complements the VISTA infrared survey telescope. The unique combination of the VST and VISTA will allow many interesting objects to be identified that can then be studied in detail with the powerful telescopes of the VLT.
The VST is a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre telescope equipped with an active optics system that keeps the two mirrors of the telescope perfectly aligned at all times in order to ensure the highest possible image quality. Now, at its core, behind huge lenses, lies the OmegaCAM camera which was built around no less than 32 CCD detectors which, together, create a whopping 268 megapixel image.
The camera also contains some extra CCDs that help with the telescope guiding and the active optics system, as well as some absolutely enormous colour filters. Both the telescope and the camera were designed to take full advantage of the excellent observing conditions on Paranal.
The VST will make three public surveys over the next five years. One survey, called KIDS, will image several regions of the sky away from the Milky Way. It will help astronomers understand more about dark matter, dark energy and galaxy evolution, and find many new galaxy clusters and high-redshift quasars. The VST ATLAS survey will cover a larger area of sky and will focus on determining the properties of dark energy. Like KIDS, it will also hunt for far-away galaxies and quasars.
The third survey, VPHAS+, will image the central plane of the Milky Way to map the structure of the Galactic disc and its star-formation history. It will yield a catalogue of around 500 million objects and will discover many new examples of unusual stars at all stages of their evolution.
The VST has just made its first release of images:
The spectacular Omega Nebula, also known as Swan Nebula, is a region of gas, dust and hot young stars that lies in the heart of the Milky Way. The VST field of view is so large that the entire nebula, including its fainter outer parts, is captured — and retains its superb sharpness cross the entire field.
Omega Centauri is the largest globular cluster in the sky. But the VST, with its very wide field of view, has no problem in capturing the whole object in a single image, including its very faint outer regions. This image contains about 300 000 stars and it highlights the impressive sharpness of the VST's images.
The combination of large field of view, excellent image quality, and the very efficient operations scheme of the VST will produce an enormous wealth of information that will advance a number of different fields of astrophysics. Many astronomers — including myself, actually — are really looking forward to the first results from the VST surveys.
Vast solar tornado spins on the sun
A tremendous tornado whirling across the surface of the sun was captured by a NASA satellite recently -- an amazing wonder of the solar system that may be as big as the Earth itself.
The video was recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a sun-watching satellite that has transmitted a series of stunning photos of solar flares in recent months. The new video shows darker, cooler plasma shifting back and forth above the sun's surface over the span of nearly 30 hours stretching from Feb. 7 to Feb. 8.
And the giant tornado may be as large as the Earth itself, with gusts of up to 300,000 mph,
explained Terry Kucera, deputy SOHO project scientist and a solar physicist with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Tornado Season On The Sun?
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About the Lecture
Perhaps the universe is not so much strange as brimming with lovely paradox. The search for such beauty seems to lie at the heart of Frank Wilczek’s work. Twentieth century physics, from Einstein through Wilczek’s own Nobel Prize-winning efforts, involves demonstrating the existence of a topsy-turvy reality: for instance, that such sub-atomic particles as quarks and gluons, which have little or no mass, “orchestrate themselves into not just protons and neutrons but you and me,” according to Wilczek. “How is it possible to construct heavy objects out of objects that weigh nothing?,” he asks. Only by “creating mass out of pure energy.” These particles are essentially “excitations in otherwise empty space.” Says Wilczek: “That suggests something …beautiful and poetic: the masses of particles are not like, or similar to or metaphorically suggested by—they are the tones or frequencies of vibration patterns in dynamical voids.” The theory of quarks and gluons and the strong interaction accounts quantitatively for “the mass of protons, neutrons and ultimately you and me and everything around us.” But physics has not yet squared away all aspects of the universe. Wilzcek says that “in cosmology, we meet our match, and don’t know what’s going on.” This is because scientists can’t account for much of the mass in the cosmos. 70% of this mass is in “dark energy,” which is pushing the universe apart. Wilczek hopes that explanations for the dark stuff will emerge through improving equations, unifying theories of different interactions and extending their symmetries. “Beautifying equations leads not to ugly consequences but beautiful surprises,” he concludes.