Wednesday, October 26, 2005

First Light!

The Large Binocular Telescope, a pair of 8.4-meter (27-foot) diameter telescopes being built here in Arizona, has seen first light! The above picture is the first official picture taken by the telescope, and it shows the edge-on galaxy NGC 891, a spiral galaxy viewed from the side. The galaxy is in the constellation Andromeda and about 24 million light-years away. When the light in this picture started its journey, the first elephants had just evolved, and the first early monkeys were evolving.

First Light marks an important step for any new telescope. It marks the first time that all of the telescope systems work together, including pointing, tracking (following objects in the sky), a polished and coated mirror, and a camera. While there often is still a lot of work to be done, first light means that the telescope construction is almost done, and that science can soon begin!

More versions of the above picture, as well as more detailed explanations of the photo and how it was taken, can be found here.

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