The first images have been revealed from a telescope that can map the sky much faster and deeper than any other.
The Vista (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) is dedicated to mapping the sky in infrared light.
Spectacular images, including some of the centre of our Milky Way, show, astronomers say, that the UK-designed telescope is working “extremely well”.
It is based at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Paranal Observatory in Chile.
When the UK was first negotiating to join ESO, Vista became an in-kind payment towards its subscription.
It was formally handed over to ESO at a ceremony in Garching, Germany on 10 December 2009. …
Vista’s super-sensitive infrared camera could also help uncover the relationship between the structure of the Universe and the mysterious “dark energy” and “dark matter”.
These strange phenomena cannot be investigated directly; their properties can only be inferred from the position and movement of other detectable celestial objects.
So a more detailed map of the sky could help scientists to learn more about them.
By detecting infrared light, the telescope is able to see through the dust that can obscure galaxies.
It will also pick up the faint glow of extremely distant objects – light that has been stretched into longer infrared wavelengths by the expansion of the Universe. …Vista can see into the dusty heart of our own Milky Way
Vista also has a large field of view, and can cover wide areas of sky quickly – each of its images captures an area of sky about ten times as large as the full Moon.
Professor Emerson said: “History has shown us that the most exciting things that come out of projects like Vista are what you least expect, and I’m very excited to see what these will be.”
The UK’s Minister of State for Science and Innovation Lord Drayson, said: “This outstanding example of UK kit is revealing our Universe’s deepest secrets. I eagerly await more images from Vista.”