Feeds

Namibia unveils whopper Cherenkov telescope

Capturing tiny atmospheric flashes to reveal distant galaxies

The next step in data security

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. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.