ALMA Resolves Atomic Carbon

Top left we have the Hubble image of NGC 6302, bottom left we have the emission spectrum of Carbon, and to the right we have a  composite image of the ALMA data overlaying the Hubble image of NGC 6302.

Top left we have the Hubble image of NGC 6302, bottom left we have the emission spectrum of Carbon, and to the right we have a composite image of the ALMA data overlaying the Hubble image of NGC 6302.


Hello fellow astrogeeks,

We have some very exciting news, despite the recent Labour dispute at ALMA (Atacama Large millimetre/sub-millimetre Array), the data that has been obtained thus far presents the first high resolution resolvement of Carbon atoms around the planetary nebular NGC 6302; the 500GHz frequency band where the line emission peak of atomic Carbon lies had only been previously resolved to 15 arcseconds with single dish interferometers, ALMA can resolve to 3.5 arcseconds.

That’s cool, but err… What does this all mean?

Well, this is the first step into observing the evolutionary processes at different points in a star’s life, thanks to the massive array in collaboration with the Band 8 antennae fitted to each dish we can now resolve and spatially map the location of specific atomic species to a greater accuracy than before, this will provide more precise determinations of the velocities of gas clouds, understand what mechanisms are at work during stellar formation, better understand higher mass stars… The list is never ending and represents an exciting time in observational astronomy.

Mapping this carbon to the Hubble image of the nebula NGC 6302 shows us the scope of the data and puts it in context for those not familiar with radio astronomy, it’s a brilliant portrayal on how far the technology in science has come and how it’s quickly advancing man-kind’s understanding of the Universe, in the hope of harnessing the understanding of these new intuitive technologies along the path of discovery.

That’s all for now astrogeeks and keep looking up,



Poor ALMA is all alone

ALMA 5km high with (not so) fresh air

Salutations fellow Astrogeeks,

Sad news this week as it comes to our attention that ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/sub-millimetre Array) is now closed for business for the unforeseeable future, this comes from a recent labour dispute with the observatory workers performing strike action; this is the problem when Science and politics collide, no matter how big or small the problem. All astronomers that were present at the site have been ordered to return to their respective homes, however despite this there is still data analysis that can be performed ‘off-site’ from the so called ‘cycle 1’ phase; observations were made with half of the total array collecting area (33 dishes instead of the total 66).

ALMA, atop the very high and oxygen starving altitudes (5km) of the Atacama desert in northern Chile, is a massive radio array, which when finished will have a total of 66 working dishes acting as one massive dish. At this altitude the array can analyse incoming infrared radiation, as the air is thin enough to allow it to pass through into the atmosphere at this altitude, the massive array will allow us to resolve to a greater degree of detail than ever before when it’s at full operational capacity, even now running half of the array it’s already bringing back very valuable data.

So, it’s a frustrating point in time, as the strike comes close to the final stages of completing the array in its entirety, however despite this minor setback there is already some exciting data beaming from the array; hopefully helping us to gain a greater understanding the processes and mechanisms that help cause the more massive stars to be born, as well as to greater understand the formation and evolution of galaxies. Hopefully the ‘table discussions’ between the Union and the legal employer of the Chilean staff, Associated Universities Incorporated (AUI), can be settled and completion of the Array will continue, so it is finished by the end of the year.

Speak to you soon fellow astrogeeks,



NASA’s Kepler is now lost forever…

Concept Art of Kepler hunting for exoplanets, planets that lie outside of our own solar system. (All image rights are given to NASA)

Hello all Astro enthusiasts,

You may have all heard the sad news of NASA’s Kepler space-based telescope encountering a failure in one of its reaction wheels back in May, well, despite after months of attempted recovery of the telescope NASA has sadly had to ‘call it a day’ and give up any hope of this wonderful piece of inspiring astronomy sparking back into life.

What was Kepler?

Kepler is a spaced-based telescope named after the scientist ‘Johannes Kepler’, who is famous for transcribing the 3 laws of planetary motion, developed by NASA its aim was to analyse and survey the ‘Light Curves’ of over a 150,000 stars in a fixed field of view (FOV). What was the reason for performing such a survey? To detect the 1% dip in brightness of a star that could be potentially have been caused by a distant planet, orbiting around a distant star, what Astronomers would call an ‘Exoplanet Transit’; like the moon eclipsing the sun in a total solar eclipse, a distant planet can effectively eclipse part of a distant star’s light. Kepler could read and resolve/see these small ‘blips’, and as a result the data obtained from Kepler has confirmed the existence of over 503 planets that orbit around other stars, in other words planets are a very common occurrence during the birth of stars.

As a result, it’s sad that Kepler won’t be bringing back any more new data, but there is still a lot of data that needs crunching and analysed, so all is not completely lost and there are still exciting times ahead.

For more on this, then please click here:

Speak to you soon Astrogeeks,

The ObsAstro