Detection of the Crab Nebula revealed a novel telescope technology’s viability.
Researchers in the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) consortium have discovered gamma rays from the Crab Nebula with a prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT), proving the viability of the novel telescope design for use in gamma-ray astrophysics. The results were declared June 1 in the 236th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).
“For fifty decades, the optical design of gamma-ray telescopes was essentially unchanged. With this detection, we’ve confirmed a new, more sophisticated optical design which not only gives enormously improved optical performance, but also enables the camera to take whole advantage of contemporary developments in light detectors and high-speed electronics,” said David Williams, a researcher at the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) and adjunct professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz.
Williams is a co-principal investigator on the grant from the National Science Foundation that supported construction of the telescope. His group such as undergraduate students, analyzed detectors to select the best version also to calibrate the detectors purchased for your camera’s performance and also to use in the telescope camera.
The Crab Nebula is the brightest steady supply of gamma rays in the sky detecting it is an excellent way of proving the pSCT technology. “Very-high-energy gamma rays are the highest energy photons in the world and can unveil the physics of intense objects such as black holes and potentially dark thing,” explained Justin Vandenbroucke of the University of Wisconsin.
Discovering the Crab Nebula with the pSCT is much more than for your telescope itself. “We have established this new technology, which will quantify gamma-rays with extraordinary precision, empowering future discoveries,” explained Vandenbroucke. “Gamma-ray astronomy is currently in the heart of the new multi-messenger astrophysics, and the SCT technology will make it a much more important player.”
Using secondary mirrors in gamma-ray telescopes is a jump in innovation for the young field of astronomy, which has moved into the forefront of astrophysics. “Just more than three decades ago, TeV gamma rays were detected in the world, by the Crab Nebula, on precisely the exact same mountain where the pSCT sits today,” explained Vandenbroucke. “This was a real breakthrough, opening a cosmic window with light that is a trillion times more lively than we can see with our eyes. Today, we’re using two mirror surfaces rather than one, and innovative detectors and electronics to study those gamma rays with resolution that is beautiful .”
Charge: Amy Oliver Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian
The initial pSCT Crab Nebula detection was made possible by leveraging crucial simultaneous observations with an co-located VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) observatory. “We have successfully evolved the way gamma-ray astronomy was done during the past 50 decades, enabling studies to be carried out in much less time,” explained VERITAS Director Wystan Benbow. “Several future apps will particularly benefit, such as surveys of the gamma-ray skies, studies of large objects like supernova remnants, and hunts for multi-messenger sockets to astrophysical neutrinos and gravitational wave events.”
Situated at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Amado, Arizona–the most significant field site of the Center for Astrophysics The job was underway for at least a decade, although after a year of commissioning work, scientists started observing the Crab Nebula at January 2020.
“We proposed the notion of applying this particular optical system to TeV gamma-ray astronomy nearly 15 decades before, and my coworkers and I built a group in the US and internationally to prove that this technology may operate,” stated pSCT chief investigator Vladimir Vassiliev. “What was once a theoretical limitation to this technology is currently well within our grasp, and continued improvements to the technology and the electronics will further increase our capacity to detect gamma rays at resolutions and rates we once only ever wanted.”
The pSCT was made possible by the contributions of thirty institutions and five crucial industry partners across the United States, Italy, Germany, Japan, and Mexico, also by financing through the U.S National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Program.
“A prototype of a prospective center can yield such a tantalizing result promises great things by the full capacity, and exemplifies NSF’s interest in creating new possibilities that can allow a project to attract wide-spread aid,” said NSF program manager Nigel Sharp.
Now demonstrated, the pSCT’s current and forthcoming inventions will lay the groundwork for use. “The pSCT, and its own innovations, are pathfinding for the near future CTA, which will detect gamma-ray sources at approximately 100 times quicker than VERITAS, which is the current state of the art,” said Benbow. “We have shown that this new technology for gamma-ray astronomy unequivocally works. The promise is there with this groundbreaking new observatory, and it opens a tremendous quantity of discovery potential.”