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Gamma-ray telescope gets ready for prime time

21 Jan 2019, 14:11 UTC
Gamma-ray telescope gets ready for prime time
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A novel gamma ray telescope under construction on Mount Hopkins, Arizona. Image credit: Vladimir Vassiliev
A new telescope, part of an international effort to develop and build the world’s largest, most sensitive gamma-ray detector, was unveiled to the public on Thursday 17 January in a ceremony at the Whipple Observatory on Arizona’s Mount Hopkins.
Known formally as the prototype Schwarzchild-Couder Telescope, the new telescope is a working, high-end test bed for technologies to be used in the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), a configuration of approximately 100 telescopes intended to give astrophysicists their best look ever at the transient effects of gamma rays interacting with particles high in Earth’s atmosphere.
The heart of the new telescope is a novel, high-speed camera devised in part by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in collaboration with researchers from other universities.
In astrophysics, gamma rays are known to be produced by some of the most energetic objects in the universe: supernova explosions, pulsars, neutron stars and the swirling environments around black holes. When the highly-energetic gamma rays reach Earth, they interact with molecules high in the Earth’s atmosphere and create a fleeting pulse of Cherenkov light in an air shower. The burst of ...

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