Feeds

Namibia unveils whopper Cherenkov telescope

Capturing tiny atmospheric flashes to reveal distant galaxies

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
Moment of truth for LOHAN's servos: Our US allies are poised for final test flight
Will Vulture 2 freeze at altitude? Edge Research Lab to find out
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.