January 8, 2010

Yale University uses an "HPWREN-South" to discover new astronomical objects

By David Rabinowitz, Astronomer, Yale University

Yale University is now operating the 160 megapixel camera full-time on the 1.0-meter ESO Schmidt telescope at La Silla in Chile. Nearly 50 gigabytes of image data are collected each night, and transmitted to Yale in near-real time via a high speed network connection. There the data is analyzed, with the objective being a search for transients -- particularly supernovae and Kuiper-Belt objects. Last December, four new distant objects were detected, including 2009 YE7, which is a likely new dwarf planet near the size of Quaoar.

Image of dust cloud near Eta Carinae -- left side is new QUEST image, right side is old photographic plate from 1.0-m Schmidt

Image credit: David Rabinowitz

In order to transmit the data to Yale, a 100-km microwave radio data link had been created between La Silla and Cerro Tololo, where the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) had established a high-speed connection to the US mainland. This link to Cerro Tololo was made using inexpensive network radios coupled to 8-foot diameter parabolic antennae aimed at each other between the two mountain tops. These HPWREN antenna dishes, along with the 160 megapixel camera, had seen prior use at the Palomar Observatory, including for Yale University research activities, and driven to New Haven, Connecticut, and shipped from there to Chile for their new mission. The link in Chile would not have been possible without the extraordinary generosity of Hans-Werner Braun, James Hale, and Sam Leffler - the experts who made the implementation and operation possible, while putting in significant effort to get the link working. The link has been working flawlessly since August 2009, when first connection was made.

Discovery images of 2009 YE7 taken 2009 Dec 17 (north up, east left) with the La Silla - QUEST camera. The circles show the location in three different images taken 2 hours apart.

Image credit: David Rabinowitz

An article related to the installation of this link can be found at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/news/20090516/.

Main HPWREN web site (includes information for acknowledgments/disclaimers and feedback/contact)