Infrared Astronomy is the detection and study of the infrared radiation, or heat energy, emitted by objects in the universe. All astronomical objects have heat, so all objects emit infrared (IR) radiation. This makes IR astronomy the study of just about everything in the universe.
To observe in IR, astronomers can use the same telescopes they use for optical astronomy, but with different filters and receivers that are fine-tuned to the IR part of the spectrum. Because it is relatively easy to change the telescope over to this type of set-up, a large number of observatories have an IR receiver or spectrograph which can be used.
ESA (Oct. 2, 2009) –Herschel has delivered spectacular vistas of cold gas clouds lying near the plane of the Milky Way, revealing intense, unexpected activity. The dark, cool...
Dusty GobulesLast Updated on 2009-11-07 11:14:28New stars tend to form with disks of gas and dust around them. After a few hundred thousand years or so, the intense ultraviolet radiation from the most massive of these stars has expelled much of the gas in the outer portion of the nearby disks, and scientist think that the escaping gas takes some of the dust along with it. That dust can be seen at infrared wavelengths as cool, comet-shaped globules. Since these disks are the birthplaces of planets, the processes involved in producing globules will impact the formation and subsequent evolution of planets. Hence astronomers are very interested in the diagnostic clues provided by cometary globules.
The Spitzer Space Telescope with its infrared cameras is able to study many of these dim cometary globules for the first time. Three SAO astronomers, Xavier Koenig, Lori Allen, and Scott Kenyon, along with two colleagues, have imaged the... More »
Herschel views deep-space pearls on a cosmic stringLast Updated on 2009-10-02 00:00:00ESA (Oct. 2, 2009) –Herschel has delivered spectacular vistas of cold gas clouds lying near the plane of the Milky Way, revealing intense, unexpected activity. The dark, cool region is dotted with stellar factories, like pearls on a cosmic string.
On 3 September, Herschel aimed its telescope at a reservoir of cold gas in the constellation of the Southern Cross near the Galactic Plane. As the telescope scanned the sky, the spacecraft’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging REceiver, SPIRE, and Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer, PACS instruments snapped the pictures. The region is located about 60° from the Galactic Centre, thousands of light-years from Earth.
The five original infrared wavelengths have been colour-coded to allow scientists to differentiate extremely cold material (red) from the surrounding, slightly warmer stuff (blue).
The images reveal structure... More »
WISELast Updated on 2009-10-01 16:13:33WISE is a NASA-funded Explorer mission that will provide a vast storehouse of knowledge about the solar system, the Milky Way, and the Universe. Among the objects WISE will study are asteroids, the coolest and dimmest stars, and the most luminous galaxies.
WISE is an unmanned satellite carrying an infrared-sensitive telescope that will image the entire sky. Since objects around room temperature emit infrared radiation, the WISE telescope and detectors are kept very cold (below -430°F /15 Kelvins, which is only 15° Centigrade above absolute zero) by a cryostat -- like an ice chest but filled with solid hydrogen instead of ice.
Solar panels will provide WISE with the electricity it needs to operate, and will always point toward the Sun. Orbiting several hundred miles above the dividing line between night and day on Earth, the telescope will look out at right angles to the Sun and will... More »
HerschelLast Updated on 2009-10-01 15:52:59The Herschel Space Observatory will be the largest ever infrared space observatory. Equipped with a 3.5 metre diameter reflecting telescope and instruments cooled to close to absolute zero, Herschel will observe at wavelengths that have never previously been explored. Herschel has a nominal mission lifetime of three years in orbit around the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system (L2).
Infrared astronomy is a young and exciting science. In recent decades infrared astronomers have unveiled tens of thousands of new galaxies, and have made surprising discoveries such as the huge amounts of water vapour that fill our Galaxy. Yet scientists know there is still much more to discover. Objects such as other planetary systems, or processes like the birth of galaxies in the early Universe, can best be studied with infrared telescopes situated in space and therefore freed from the... More »
Astro-FLast Updated on 2009-09-29 16:49:26ASTRO-F, currently under development, will be Japan's first infrared-ray astronomical satellite to perform "survey observation," an all-sky survey at infrared wavelengths, including those of stars and galaxies. ASTRO-F is being designed to make this survey with greater sensitivity and higher resolution than those achieved by the Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS), the world?s first astronomical satellite using infrared rays, which was launched jointly by the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands in 1983.
IRAS carried an infrared telescope with a 57-cm aperture for ten months of observation. ASTRO-F will carry a 67-cm-aperture infrared telescope, and will be capable of 550 days of observation. Observational instruments on board the ASTRO-F are the Far-Infrared Surveyor (FIS) and the Infrared Camera (IRC) for low- to mid-range resolution spectroscopy. The low-resolution... More »
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