New look at supermassive black hole’s magnetic field

With the CanariCam infrared camera

Online  —  For the first time, astronomers have revealed a new high-resolution map of the magnetic field lines in gas and dust swirling around the supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy.

The team, led by Professor Pat Roche of the University of Oxford, created the map using the CanariCam infrared camera attached to the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) sited on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain.

Their research will appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

University of Florida Professor of Astronomy Charles Telesco and his science and engineering team in UF’s Department of Astronomy built the CanariCam infrared camera that enabled the team to image the magnetic field.

“Its polarimetry mode is the most capable anywhere in the world,” said Roche.

“Combined with the light grasp and the quality of the images produced by the Gran Telescopio Canarias, it is revealing details of magnetic fields and cosmic dust properties in a range of astronomical objects.”

The GTC is the world’s largest optical and infrared telescope. It is operated by the Spanish government as part of the international partnership among Spain, Mexico, and UF. UF enjoys a unique collaboration with the GTC as the only educational institution in the partnership.

This effort was spearheaded by Telesco when he came to UF from NASA in 1995.

He said, “Our faculty, staff, and students have gained immensely from this international partnership, and it puts UF in the big-time class of universities with star-power observing facilities, a real mark of distinction in the astronomical world.”

Source: Read the rest of the story online at the University of Florida website: http://news.ufl.edu/articles/2018/02/uf-built-instrument-provides-new-look-at-supermassive-black-holes-magnetic-field.php

FYI: CanariCam

CanariCam is a mid-infrared (7.5 – 25 micron) imager with spectroscopic, coronagraphic, and polarimetric capabilities, which will be mounted at one of the Nasmyth foci of the GTC. It is designed to work as a diffraction-limited imager at 8 microns.

The instrument uses a Raytheon 320×240 Si:As detector which covers a field of view of ~26″x19″ on the sky. Most mechanism motors and optics are inside a cryostat which is cooled down to 28 K using a He cryo-cooler system. Temperature control of the detector ensures that its optimum operating temperature (~9 K) is stable in the mK range.

CanariCam is designed to reach the diffraction limit of the telescope at mid-IR wavelengths. However, to do this routinely the telescope will have to be equipped with a fast-guiding mode that will allow for fast tip-tilt correction.

More about Astronomical instrumentation at UF: https://www.astro.ufl.edu/instrumentation/

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