Wednesday, August 10, 2022

India’s Liquid Mirror Telescope is ready for its close-up

The International Liquid Mirror Telescope in its building in the Himalayas.

The International Liquid Mirror Telescope in its building in the Himalayas.
photo, jean surdejo

High in the Himalayas, a new telescope has been installed to observe the night sky. The Contraption has a 4-meter (13-foot) lens, but here’s the kicker: It’s made of liquid mercury, a material rarely used for astronomical imaging.

Called the International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT for short), the main component of the device is a layer of liquid mercury Which floats on a very thin layer of compressed air. the quicksilver rotates, taking on a parabolic shape in the process – useful for focusing light from the night sky. By placing a camera at the paraboloid’s focal point, astronomers would then be able to image objects in the sky.

At first glance, the mirror of the telescope appears to be a simple reflecting surface., But, in reality, it is made of liquid Which was carefully shipped to the mountain by a company specializing in hazardous materials. until someone tries to drink The binocular mirror, however, is completely safe—and according to the ILMT team, an economical alternative to other binocular mirror materials.

“The main advantage is the relatively low cost of a large liquid mirror compared to a large conventional telescopic mirror,” said Paul Hixon, an astronomer at the University of British Columbia who works on liquid mirror technologies, in an email to Gizmodo. “For example, the cost of ILMT is one-tenth of the cost of 3.6m.” [11.8-foot] Devasthal Optical Telescope – A conventional telescope of roughly the same size and position in the same location.”

And that place is very high. The telescope is located on the edge of the Himalayas of India at an altitude of more than 8,000 feet above sea level. It will probe a strip of sky directly above that contains hundreds of thousands of galaxies and several thousand quasars, Hickson said. (Quasars are very active galactic cores, which glow in the night sky.)

By imaging the night sky – directly overhead, where there is least atmospheric noise – astronomers can find out which objects in the sky are changing over time, whether they are new supernovae, in front of luminous objects. asteroids passing through, or even black holes bending transits light from the source behind them.

“We have estimated that 50 new cases of the much-anticipated quasar should be detected in the field of view of the ILMT,” Jean Surdez, an astrophysicist and project director at the University of Lige in Belgium, said in an email to Gizmodo.

binoculars saw its first light in april, But scientific observations won’t begin until the end of this year. When fully powered on, The telescope will collect 10 gigabytes of data overnight. Given the mercantile nature of supernovae and gravitational lenses, it is reasonable that the ILMT would capture those events with Quicksilver.

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