Australian, US astronomers combine to produce new infrared telescope


The first device able to monitor the entire north sky swings in action. Brian W. Pulling reports.


The new Gattini-IR telescope, now moving into full operation.

The new Gattini-IR telescope, now moving into full operation.

ANU/Caltech

A new infrared telescope is the first to be able to monitor the entire northern sky for hidden treasures among dying stars.

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the United States, have collaborated to design and build Gattini-IR, a first of its kind infrared telescope at the Palomar Observatory in southern California.

Gattini-IR began scientific operations last week, allowing researchers to continuously monitor the entire northern sky for infrared radiation, looking through clouds of gas which had previously obscured astronomers view of ancient and dying stars.

“By creating a real-time mosaic of the northern sky every night, we’ll pick up lots of fascinating objects and dramatic events, such as the final throes of dying stars obscured by dust, and detection of some of the oldest stars in our galaxy,” says the ANU’s Anna Moore, a co-lead researcher on the project.

“In addition to letting us see through clouds of dust, infrared light can tell us a lot about the formation of heavy elements – such as gold and platinum – in neutron star mergers like the one ANU researchers and others were fortunate to observe last year.”

The Gattini-IR team has already begun planning a new project called Dynamic Red All-sky Monitoring Survey (DREAMS), which will be built at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia.

Jamie Soon, a PhD scholar at ANU says, “the data from DREAMS could be used to help improve our scientific understanding of how our galaxy formed”.

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