Телескоп New Technology Telescope с новыс спектнрографом. Источник изображения: European Southern Observatory/B. Tafreshi

Astronomers get a tool to look at a young universe

The origin, concentration and distribution of metals in the early Universe can reveal many secrets of the universe. But until now, astronomers could not look far back, limiting themselves to spectral observation of stars only in our galaxy. The new WINERED spectrograph will help look at the young Universe 2.4 billion years old after the Big Bang (now about 12.6 billion years old), which will collect new data and refine theories.

Telescope New Technology Telescope with new spectrograph. Image source: European Southern Observatory / B. Tafreshi

New Technology Telescope with a new spectrograph. Image source: European Southern Observatory / B. Tafreshi

The WINERED spectrograph is installed on the 3.58-meter New Technology Telescope (NTT) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. This is the so-called European Southern Observatory. With the help of a telescope, the spectrograph will allow observing quasars.

The researchers hope that a new and deeper level of research will help answer questions about the origin of not only metals in the Universe, but also the stars themselves. Iron is one of the most important elements for life as we know it and for technology, both primitive and modern, that have shaped human history. But details of the exact origins of iron and other important metals like magnesium remain unclear.

Theories of the density of distribution of metals after the Big Bang. Red shows the area to which the new spectrograph will gain access.

Theories of metal propagation density after the Big Bang. Red shows the area that the new spectrograph will have access to.

A new instrument with increased sensitivity to near infrared light could push the boundaries and open up the possibility of observing distant quasars, powerful in their visible light emission from ancient galactic nuclei that emitted light when the universe was just 2.4 billion years old. The first observations of quasars with the WINERED spectrograph showed the presence of iron in the emission spectrum of these celestial bodies. It remains to accumulate a database of many such objects, and our knowledge of the world around us will become a little more complete.

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