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New device will investigate Milky Way’s origins

New device will investigate Milky Way’s origins

New device will investigate Milky Way’s origins

New device will investigate Milky Way’s origins(credits:google)

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  • The William Herschel Telescope (WHT) in La Palma, Spain, will catalogue five million stars per hour. A super-fast mapping device linked to WHT will analyse the composition of each star.
  • It will demonstrate how our Milky Way galaxy evolved over billions of years. The WHT’s Weave is a giant plate that maps the formation of stars in the Milky Way.
  • It can calculate the speed, direction, age, and composition of each star it observes, resulting in a moving picture of stars from across the Universe. Dr Marc Balcells believes Weave will change our understanding of how galaxies form.
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Scientists have upgraded one of the world’s most powerful telescopes with new technology that will reveal the formation of our galaxy in unprecedented detail.

The William Herschel Telescope (WHT) in La Palma, Spain, will be able to catalogue five million stars per hour.

A super-fast mapping device linked to WHT will analyse the composition of each star as well as its speed of travel.

It will demonstrate how our Milky Way galaxy evolved over billions of years.

Prof Gavin Dalton of Oxford University has spent more than a decade developing the ‘Weave’ instrument.

He told me he was “overjoyed” that it was ready to go.

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“It’s a fantastic achievement by many people to make this happen, and it’s fantastic to have it working,” he said. “The next step is the new adventure, which is fantastic!”

Weave instrument: It resembles a large metal disc crisscrossed by fiber-optic tubes pointing in all directions. It is hovered over by robotic arms.

Weave has been installed on the WHT, which is perched atop a mountain on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma. The name WHT Enhanced Area Velocity Explorer refers to exactly what it does.

It is an engineering marvel with 80,000 separate parts.

Astronomers identify the positions of a thousand stars for each patch of sky where the WHT is pointed. The nimble robotic fingers of Weave then precisely place a fibre-optic – a light-transmitting tube – on each location on a plate, pointing towards its corresponding star.

These fibres are essentially miniature telescopes. Each instrument captures light from a single star and channels it to another. This divides it into a rainbow spectrum, which contains the star’s origin and history.

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All of this is completed in less than an hour. While this is happening, the fibre optics for the next thousand stars are placed on the reverse side of the plate, which flips over to analyse the next set of targets once the previous survey is finished.

Over billions of years, it grew through successive mergers with other small galaxies. Along with the addition of stars from the new galaxies that join ours, each merger shakes things up enough to result in the formation of brand new stars.

Weave can calculate the speed, direction, age, and composition of each star it observes, resulting in a moving picture of stars in the Milky Way. Prof Dalton claims that by extrapolating backwards, it will be possible to reconstruct the entire formation of the Milky Way in unprecedented detail.

“We’ll be able to trace the galaxies that have been absorbed as the Milky Way has grown over cosmic time – and see how each absorption triggers new star formation,” he explained.

Dr. Marc Balcells, the WHT’s overall director, told BBC News that he believed Weave would change our understanding of how galaxies form.

“We have been told for decades that we are living in a golden age of astronomy, but what lies ahead is far more important.

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“Weave will answer questions that astronomers have been trying to answer for decades, such as how many pieces come together to form a large galaxy and how many galaxies were combined to form the Milky Way.”

“There will be a huge amount of things that we will discover that we did not expect to find,” she said. “Because the Universe is brimming with surprises.”

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