"Pan-STARRS is designed to search for near Earth objects like asteroids, and also pull double duty as a supernova hunter."
“Pan-STARRS is designed to search for near Earth objects like asteroids, and also pull double duty as a supernova hunter.”
Is the universe accelerating expansion occurs for some unknown reason? This is one of the disturbing mysteries of astrophysics, and somewhere in a distant galaxy are supernovae that have not seen, which may still hold the key. Now, thanks to the telescope is calibrated by scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Harvard University and the University of Hawaii, astrophysicists can be more confident that one day they will get an accurate answer.
NIST scientists went to the top of Haleakala volcano on Hawaii to improve the operation of billions of pixels collecting light at the Pan-STARRS telescopes, which scan the sky for Type IA supernovae. The stars always shine with the light off the same light as other supernova IA type, making them useful for the observer as “standard candles” to judge distances in the universe. Any apparent shift in the supernova spectrum provides a measure of how the universe was expanding (or contraction) as the passage of light from the supernova to Earth.
NIST expertise to help calibrate the camera is 1.4 billion pixels in the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, observations that can reveal details about the expansion of the universe. (Credit: Rob Ratkowski)
Because Type IA is valuable as a signpost, the astrophysicists want to make sure that when they observe one of these distant cataclysms stars, they obtained a clear and accurate – especially important given the current mystery of why the universe’s expansion rate to be increased. For that, they need a telescope that will return information about the supernova is consistent regardless of the collector 1.4 billion pixel image capture.
“That’s our goal,” said John Woodward from NIST. “We specialize in measurements, and they need to calibrate the telescope in a way that has never been done before.”
Calibration usually involves the performance of the telescope at wavelengths of light simultaneously, but Pan-STARRS should be calibrated at many individual wavelengths between 400 to 1,000 nanometers. For this work, Woodward and colleagues used a special laser wavelength can be tuned to values in the range, and spent three days testing at the world’s largest camera on the 1.4 gigapixel telescope, said Woodward.
“Pan-STARRS will scan the same area of sky repeatedly for months,” said Woodward. “It’s designed to look for near-Earth objects like asteroids, and also pull double duty as a supernova hunter. But for both jobs, the observer must be sure they can compare what they see from one picture to the next. “
Woodward said, because this is one of the first time on the telescope calibration, the effect is not clear how much work will have on the team, and part of their future work will determine how much they have reduced the uncertainty on the performance of the Pan-STARRS. They will use this information to calibrate a much larger telescope – the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, planned for construction in Chile.