ESOcast 46: Catching Light
Special 50th anniversary episode #6
01 Agosto 2012
Leading up to ESO’s 50th anniversary in October 2012, we are releasing eight special ESOcasts, each a chapter from the movie Europe to the Stars — ESO’s First 50 Years of Exploring the Southern Sky.
ESOcast 46 is the sixth special episode of this series. It describes how state-of-the-art cameras and spectrographs help ESO’s powerful telescopes collect and analyse the faint light from the distant Universe. Without these instruments, ESO’s eyes on the sky would be blind.
Today’s astronomical images are very different from those from the 1960s. Back then, astronomers used large photographic glass plates, which were not very sensitive and hard to handle. Nowadays, ESO’s telescopes use some of the largest and most sensitive electronic detectors in the world. They catch almost every cosmic photon and recover almost every possible bit of information. For instance, the VLT Survey Telescope’s camera — OmegaCAM — has 32 detectors, which team up to produce spectacular images of the Universe, each with an impressive 268 million pixels.
But astronomy is not only about taking breathtaking images. Astronomers are always after as much information as possible so they need to dissect the starlight into its component colours to study its composition. Spectroscopy is one of the most powerful tools in astronomy and ESO’s telescopes also have some of the world’s most powerful spectrographs, such as the powerful X-shooter at the Very Large Telescope. Spectroscopy allows astronomers to infer important properties of the stars, such as the chemical elements they contain, their temperatures, motions, and even their ages. Moreover, they can study the atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting distant stars or newborn galaxies at the edge of observable Universe.
Watch this episode to discover more about ESO’s state-of-the-art astronomical instruments.
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Directed by: Lars Lindberg Christensen
Art Direction, Production Design: Martin Kornmesser
Producer: Herbert Zodet
Written by: Govert Schilling
3D animations and graphics: Martin Kornmesser & Luis Calçada
Editing: Martin Kornmesser
Cinematography: Herbert Zodet & Peter Rixner
Sound engineer: Cristian Larrea
Audio Mastering: Peter Rixner
Host & Lead Scientist: Dr J (Dr Joe Liske, ESO)
Narration: Sara Mendes da Costa
Soundtrack & Sound Effects: movetwo — Axel Kornmesser & Markus Löffler & zero-project (zero-project.gr)
Proof reading: Anne Rhodes
Technical support: Lars Holm Nielsen, Raquel Yumi Shida & Mathias Andre
DVD Authoring: Andre Roquette
Executive producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen
Footage and photos:
ESO, Christoph Malin (christophmalin.com), Babak Tafreshi/TWAN, Stéphane Guisard (eso.org/~sguisard), José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org), Alexandre Santerne, Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org), Martin Kornmesser, Herbert Zodet, J. Dommaget/J. Boulon/J. Doornenbal/W., Schlosser/F.K. Edmondson/A. Blaauw/Rademakers/R. Holder, Mineworks, Daniel Crouch/Rare Books (crouchrarebooks.com), Getty Images, Royal Astronomical Society/Science Photo Library, Jay M. Pasachoff, Chris de Coning/South African Library/Warner-Madear, Africana Museum/Warner, Leiden University, G. Brammer, Mauricio Anton/Science Library, NASA/Spitzer Science Center/R. Hurt, VISTA/J. Emerson, Digitized Sky Survey 2, MPE/S. Gillessen/M. Schartmann, PIONIER/IPAG, Rainer Lenzen/MPIA Heidelberg, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Berlin by KolBerlin, Davide De Martin, Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit, IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R. Gendler and C. Thöne, Mario Nonino, Piero Rosati and the ESO GOODS Team, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, Matthias Maercker, Igor Chekalin, Hans-Hermann Heyer, Edmund Janssen, Luis Calçada, Scott Kardel, Tom Jarrett, Kevin Govender, Sergey Stepanenko, ESA, NASA, IAU/IYA2009, T. Preibisch, R. Fosbury (ST-ECF), INAF-VST/OmegaCAM, OmegaCen/Astro-WISE/Kapteyn Institute, A. Fujii, J.-B. Le Bouquin et al., D. Coe (STScI)/J. Merten (Heidelberg/Bologna), Gemini Observatory/NRC/AURA/Christian Marois et, al., M. Janson, Jean-Luc Beuzit, IAC (SMM) and ESPRESSO consortium, T.M. Brown (STScI), UltraVISTA team, TERAPIX/CNRS/INSU/CASU, World Wide Telescope