Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Wobbly instruments?

Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler

Or "Scrambling to read the meaning of the sky's most ancient flare". It's a story in which I played a minor role but it's an interesting read about scientific competitiveness and collaboration.

"[...] Shortly after Tanvir received the alert, he was conversing via e-mail with his colleagues at the Joint Astronomy Centre (JAC) in Hilo, Hawaii, who had already started planning observations using the United Kingdom Infra-Red Telescope (UKIRT) near the summit of Mauna Kea. The good news was that night had only just begun in Hawaii—it was 10 p.m.—and the burst had gone off over the Pacific Ocean, which meant observations were possible. The bad news was that it was a windy night with gusts of up to 80 kilometers an hour blowing across the mountain. Opening the telescope's dome would subject the instrument to wobbling that would make it difficult to get any useful images. [...]"

A few months ago I wrote about the beginnings of the story here, here and here and now the paper is about to appear in Nature and is available via astro-ph - A glimpse of the end of the dark ages: the gamma-ray burst of April 23 2009 at redshift 8.3.

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