In a bold combination of professional and amateur astronomy, a group of Brazilians are working to unlock the most intimate secrets of collisions between galaxies in a collaborative project.
The initiative is coordinated by Duília de Mello, Vice Chancellor of the Catholic University of America (USA) and Associate Researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and practical last Thursday (14) at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) held due to the pandemic. “We present the project and the first results, which serve as a proof of concept,” explains the researcher.
Astronomy has always been a science that includes amateurs. Quite a few in history have taught themselves and self-financed their progress. Despite the increasing complexity of observations and results, amateurs still play a key role today, especially in activities that require a lot of observation time, such as discovering and monitoring near-Earth asteroids or requiring mobility, such as observing distant stars moving away from stars hide the solar system.
The idea of the new project called Deep Images of Mergers is to take advantage of the availability of amateur astronomers with their telescopes to encourage intense observations of distant objects.
In large professional observatories, the dispute over observation time is fierce. For amateurs, the equipment is always available and its use is limited only by weather conditions. This enables long observations of space that can have scientifically interesting results.
To understand how it works, imagine that telescopes are pools of light and that light “drips” onto them from the stars. There are two ways to harvest enough light: One is to use a large basin that will immediately catch enough light. Another option is to use a smaller bowl but leave it exposed for a long time. (The most amazing thing, of course, is when you use a Super Bowl in a super time, and then you get results like Hubble’s depth field imagery; but the availability of large telescopes for this is quite limited.)
Duilia de Mello first brought together a team of five amateur astronomers from Brazil: Marcelo Wagner Silva Domingues, Cristóvão Jacques, João Antonio Mattei, Eduardo de Jesus Oliveira and Sergio José Gonçalves da Silva. They collect the first observations of the DIM project and sometimes spend more than 30 hours collecting light from distant objects.
The first galaxies analyzed include Centaurus A, Arp 230 and NGC 1052. Initial results from Arp 230 were presented during the AAS meeting, revealing successive shells around them – according to the researchers, remains of collisions between ancient galaxies. With the proven effectiveness, the researchers plan to expand the observations to study the evolution of these galaxies and possibly also to expand the network of staff.
This column is published in Folha Corrida on Mondays.
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