SCUBA-2 to give star gazers deeper look into space

A new ‘submillimeter’ astronomy camera that can map areas of sky hundreds of times faster will now help in providing unparalleled information about early life of distant stars.

Last Updated: Dec 08, 2011, 13:10 PM IST

Washington: A new ‘submillimeter’ astronomy camera that can map areas of sky hundreds of times faster will now help in providing unparalleled information about early life of distant stars.

The camera, SCUBA-2, has been unveiled on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii.

SCUBA-2 will provide information on the early life of stars normally obscured by the remains of the very dust and gas cloud that collapsed under its own gravity to form the star.

“When you look up at the stars, you only see the light they are emitting in the visible part of the spectrum,” said Professor Gary Davis, Director of the JCMT.

“Many galaxies, including our own Milky Way, contain huge amounts of cold dust that absorbs visible light, and these dusty regions just look black when seen through an optical telescope.”

“The absorbed energy is then re-radiated by the dust at longer, submillimeter, wavelengths.”

Davis said that the new camera has been designed to detect very low-energy radiation in the submillimeter region of the spectrum.

“SCUBA-2 has been designed to detect extremely low-energy radiation in the submillimeter region of the spectrum. To do this, the instrument itself needs to be even colder.”

“The detectors inside SCUBA-2 have to be cooled to only 0.1 degree above absolute zero [minus 273.05 degrees Celsius], making the interior of SCUBA-2 colder than anything in the Universe that we know of!”

Commenting on the performance of the new instrument, Professor Wayne
Holland of UKATC, and the SCUBA-2 Project Scientist, said that SCUBA-2 will facilitate the detection faint objects that are yet to be observed.

“With SCUBA, it typically took 20 nights to image an area about the size of the full Moon. SCUBA-2 will be able to cover the same area in a couple of hours and go much deeper, allowing us to detect faint objects that have never been seen before.”

“SCUBA-2’s first task will be to carry out a series of surveys right across the heavens, mapping sites of star formation within our galaxy, as well as planet formation around nearby stars,” Dr. Antonio Chrysostomou, Associate Director of the JCMT, said.

“It will also survey our galactic neighbors and, crucially, will look deep into space and sample the youngest galaxies in the Universe, which will be critical to understanding how galaxies have evolved since the Big Bang.”

ANI