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First Galactic Fingerprint Revealed – India Education | Latest Education News | Global Educational News

A major telescope upgrade has peered across the distant Universe to reveal the spectra of a pair of galaxies 280 million light-years away from Earth.

Without even breaking a sweat, WEAVE has given us an unprecedented glimpse into the dance of this enigmatic group of galaxies
David Murphy
The spectra provide a first glimpse of the sky from the WHT Enhanced Area Velocity Explorer (WEAVE) – a unique upgrade of the William Herschel Telescope (WHT) at La Palma in the Canary Islands.

Following integration into the WHT last year, WEAVE has now entered the airborne commissioning phase, poised to reveal more than 12 million spectra of stars and galaxies over the next five years.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is one of the key partners in the operation of the WHT. Data processing, analysis and archiving for WEAVE is led by astronomers from the University of Cambridge, with support from the IAC in Spain and INAF in Italy.

Understanding the universe through spectra

Spectroscopy is an essential element in an astronomer’s toolbox. Analyzing light detected with a telescope yields useful scientific information, such as the speed of the observed object, the atoms it is made of, and its temperature.

If an image tells us what an astronomical object looks like, the spectrum tells us what it is.

First galactic spectra with WEAVE

A galactic spectrum is the combination of spectra of the millions of stars in an observed galaxy. By studying the characteristics of a galaxy’s spectrum, astronomers can understand what types of stars the galaxy contains, and the relative abundances of each type of star. This tells us about how the galaxy has formed and changed over time.

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First-light observations with WEAVE were performed with the large integral field unit (LIFU) fiber bundle, one of WEAVE’s three fiber systems. The team observed the heart of the Stephan’s Quintet galaxy group, a group of five interacting galaxies.

The instrument focused on NGC 7318a and NGC 7318b, a pair of galaxies at the center of a large galaxy collision 280 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus.

“The wealth of complexity thus revealed by a single detailed observation of this pair of nearby galaxies provides insight into the interpretation of the many millions of spectra WEAVE will obtain from galaxies in the distant Universe and provides an excellent illustration of the power and flexibility of the WEAVE facility,” says Professor Gavin Dalton from the University of Oxford.

The WEAVE LIFU (large integral field unit) measures separate spectra for 547 different regions in and around the two galaxies, recording the colors of their light from ultraviolet to near-infrared.

These spectra reveal the motions of stars and gas, the chemical composition of the stars, the temperatures and densities of the gas clouds, and more. This data will help astronomers learn how galaxy collisions transform the galaxies in the group.

“Without even breaking a sweat, WEAVE has given us an unprecedented glimpse into the dance of this enigmatic group of galaxies,” said Dr David Murphy of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, head of spectroscopic pipeline development for WEAVE. “This exciting first release provides a snapshot of the various ways the instrument can provide insight into the universe. Combined with our responsive data processing pipelines, WEAVE will advance groundbreaking research ranging from the complex chemical fingerprint of our galactic environment to the structure and structure of our universe.

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“Our advanced analysis pipeline consists of a chain of more than 20 state-of-the-art modules developed to analyze a wide range of astronomical targets, from newly born hot stars to quasars,” said Dr Alireza Molaeinezhad from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy. , lead developer of the advanced processing system. “Using this pipeline on the phenomenal first-light data is like wearing 3D glasses to view the cosmic dance of galaxies in this system.”

Eight surveys using WEAVE

Over the next five years, the ING (Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes) will devote 70% of the available time on the WHT to eight major studies with WEAVE, selected from the proposals proposed by the astronomical communities of the partner countries. All of these studies require spectra of up to millions of individual stars and galaxies, a goal now achievable thanks to WEAVE’s ability to observe nearly 1,000 objects simultaneously.

More than 500 astronomers from all over Europe have organized these eight surveys, investigating the evolution of stars, the science of the Milky Way, the evolution of galaxies and cosmology. WEAVE will study nearby and distant galaxies to learn about the history of their growth, and will obtain millions of spectra of stars in the Milky Way.

“This first light event is a milestone for both the international and UK astronomy community: WEAVE will provide spectra of millions of stars and galaxies over the next five years,” said Professor Mark Thomson, STFC Executive Chair. “After ten years of development, WEAVE will now finally offer astronomers a new view of the sky to help them answer questions such as what dark matter is and how stars formed in distant galaxies?”

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“These beautiful first light images demonstrate the power of WEAVE to unravel the intricate chemodynamic processes at work in this galaxy system,” said Dr. Nicholas Walton of the Institute of Astronomy and leader of the WEAVE data analysis system development team. “The analysis of this data, from one of WEAVE’s many observation modes, has leveraged our state-of-the-art scientific pipelines. We are now ready to process WEAVE’s nighttime data as it embarks on its key scientific studies.”

The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) is managed on behalf of the STFC in the UK, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) in the Netherlands and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in Spain.

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