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Monday
Apr282014

The Universe “Captured”

The Universe “Captured”

 

Humans have been gazing long into the sky since their existence. Through our lifetimes, we have carried a devoted curiosity in the darkness that surrounds our home. Only recently, were we able to glimpse even the slightest notion of the Universe’s vastness. This has been achieved through use of high powered telescopes, able to penetrate the deepest depths of what we know to be our solar system and beyond. The photo above was taken by the “Hubble Space Telescope with never before seen swirls of interstellar gas revealed in a test image from the ALMA telescope.”

As with most photography, telescope capture requires next to perfect conditions. Where could we find that for viewing the sky? The best locations seem to be in remote areas with little light pollution. “The

Atacama Desert (in Chile) is known to be among the driest places on Earth…The desert’s remoteness and inhospitably thin air, is ideal for observing the night sky this lured several large, multinational telescope projects.” The project ALMA, involved a 20 year process and more than a billion dollars to build and design.

 

The scientists “came up with a design (for the project) that arranged several antennas in an array, combining their signals so that they functioned together as a single telescope.” An image of the finished product is pictured above. These antennas weigh more than “200 tons” and “had to be flown in from the U.S. and escorted from the airport by a convoy of police cars.”

To make all the antennas work as a single telescope required “astonishing precision. They would need to swivel together on command and point at the same target within a second and a half of one another.” To say ALMA has made vast achievements in the field of solar discovery would be a massive understatement. Such discoveries include solving the long standing puzzle of why galaxies are so rare in the Universe. “Astronomers concluded that gas was being blasted out by winds from newly formed stars, a huge loss of starmaking material that could stymie the glaxy’s future growth.” The other major discovery has to do with “helping researchers understand how planets are born. The images revealed a dust trap within a disk where little grains of dust could stick to one another grain by grain and grow large enough to seed a planet.” Fortunately, for us, these discoveries are only the beginning and what lies ahead will capture the intrigue of our wildest dreams.

With all that being said, coming from a photography nerd, the images are just downright incredible!

 

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