Paul Canton, a doctoral student in astronomy at the University of Oklahoma, explains his research on binary stars in front of the 4-meter optical telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)
TUCSON, Ariz. — That 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory is one huge piece of equipment.
Seeing one of the world’s largest optical telescopes with observatory’s director, Lori E. Allen, as their guide, participants in this week’s Faith and Astronomy Workshop put on by the Vatican Observatory got a better understanding of how astronomers are helping unlock some of the mysteries of the universe during a visit Thursday.
The telescope has been in operation since 1970 under a 180-foot-tall dome atop Kitt Peak, located 54 miles southwest of Tucson.
Allen said the telescope is available year-round except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As the 24 workshop participants marveled at the size of the monstrous telescope, astronomer Paul Canton, 29, a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma, was preparing to use it to measure binary white dwarfs in a collaborative effort with other scientists to detect gravitational waves as predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
Canton’s work is among some of the cutting edge work astronomers are undertaking these days.
The telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory in southern Arizona. (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)
The workshop participants also visited the neighboring dome housing the 90-inch Bok Telescope operated by the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory. Three Chinese researchers were preparing for a night of observing by cooling the charge coupled device (camera) attached to the telescope with liquid nitrogen to make it more sensitive to photons from distant planetary nebulae.
Hu Zou, a staff member of the Beijing National Astronomical Observatory, said that the group had been measuring nebulae structures for 10 nights and had two more to gather data.
The telescope is the same one used by Jesuit Father Chis Corbally of the Vatican Observatory staff, who joined the workshop visitors, when he conducted star surveys over the years.
The Kitt Peak excursion was the third of the week as part of the workshop. Earlier visits included the Lunar and Planetary Lab Imagining Center and the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab, both at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Members of the Vatican Observatory’s Faith and Astronomy Workshop peer down at the large furnace inside the University (Read More)