Feeds

Namibia unveils whopper Cherenkov telescope

Capturing tiny atmospheric flashes to reveal distant galaxies

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Namibia expanded its role in the hunt for ancient, highly energetic galaxies this weekend past, when the southern African nation flicked the switch to fire up its HESS II telescope.

The largest Cherenkov telescope in the world, HESS II adds a 28-meter mirror to existing 12-meter telescopes that have operated in the country since 2004. The new scope's observations will eventually be used in conjunction with the square kilometre array (SKA), due to go live in 2020.

Cherenkov telescopes don’t observe their light sources directly. Rather, they pick up the flashes of radiation that are emitted when very high energy particles strike the atmosphere.

The energies involved are very high – from the GeV to TeV range. Such radiation isn’t emitted directly due to the heat of the object being observed, but rather is emitted when particles leaving it at relativistic speeds (because, for example, they were in the shock wave of a stellar explosion) strike other particles in gas clouds or interact with photons.

The 580-ton HESS II Cherenkov telescope.

Source: HESS Collaboration

So, in fact, a Cherenkov telescope is measuring the indirect effect (the atmospheric radiation flash) of an indirect effect (the high-energy radiation) – but such telescopes are still considered the gold standard for some kinds of observations.

The 526-plus tonne (580 ton) HESS II will help examine the 100-plus known sources of intergalactic gamma rays, as well as surveying the sky for new sources. It’s designed to seek out sources in the tens of GeV range, which this release says is a “poorly-explored transition regime between space-based instruments and current ground-based telescopes”.

Such sources include Active Galactic Nuclei, whose gamma ray outputs suggest they’re as much as a hundred times as energetic as the Milky Way, but crammed into a volume smaller than the solar system, and with rapid “on-off” cycles that suggest the presence of supermassive black holes.

HESS II’s camera is also impressive: suspended 36 meters above the 875-facet primary mirror, it weighs 2.7 tonnes (2.7 tons). It takes 3,600 images per second, has an effective exposure time of 16 nanoseconds, and on its own consumes 8kW.

The whole rig has been designed to be aimed faster than the smaller predecessor telescopes, to capture transient phenomena. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.