Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Laser Vision Helps Telescope Probe Distant Star Cluster

A time exposure view of the SOAR telescope observing at Cerro Pachon in Chile.


A powerful new ultraviolet laser that fires into the night sky is helping scientists take their most detailed look yet at a distant star cluster.

A team of astronomers at the Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research (SOAR) and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Cerro Pachon in Chile used an instrument called SOAR Adaptive Module, or simply SAM, to peer deep inside the crowded NGC 6496 cluster to understand how its stars evolved.

The researchers measured the color and brightness of over 7,000 stars in NGC 6496, and determined that the star cluster is 10.5 billion years old and 32,600 light years away from Earth — the most exact measurement yet of the star cluster's key parameters. [Starry Night: Take Our Star Quiz]

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