Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Blog: Temperatures Drop Below Minus 459⁰F in Hawaii !

Perhaps the coldest spot in the universe is on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island. It is inside a giant, complex camera known as SCUBA-2 that is mounted on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), a joint project of the national astronomy organizations in the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands.

SCUBA-2, when fully operational, will detect sub millimeter radiation, which is sensitive to the heat emitted by the extremely cold dust in the Universe. This technical advancement is expected to make discoveries related to the origins of the galaxies, stars and planets.

Looking at Scuba2

In order to detect such low levels of heat, the detectors inside the camera must be as sensitive as possible. To achieve this they must be cooled to within a tenth of a degree above absolute zero (or about -459 Fahrenheit). And to prevent the detectors being affected by heat from the camera itself, the internal optics of the camera must also be cooled. As a result, the complete camera is the size of a family car, weighing about four tons!

“With a much larger field-of-view and sky-background limited sensitivity, SCUBA 2 will map large areas of sky up to 1000 times faster than the current SCUBA camera. All areas of astronomy will benefit, from studies of our Solar System and surveys of proto stellar complexes in the Milky Way, to answering key questions about the formation and evolution of galaxies in the early Universe.” (Science & Technology Facilities Council, UK Astronomy Technology Centre).

More details may be found at http://astro.uwaterloo.ca/SCUBA2/Posters&Presentations/SCUBA2_descriptionV1.pdf


All photos are courtesy of Devany Davidson.

SCUBA-2 took seven years to build and was the result of a joint initiative of groups and institutions in the United Kingdom and Canada including the Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh; the University of Cardiff; the University of Waterloo;the University of British Columbia; the University of Lethbridge; and the Université de Montréal. Initial funding for development work came from the JCMT Instrument Development Fund. Funds for the construction of SCUBA-2 were provided by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council(UK) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

Apologizes to anyone who blogged “scuba diving” and ended up here.

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