Wednesday, November 22, 2006

An historic day for mexican astronomy

Today the LMT (Large Millimeter Telescope) has been inaugurated today by president Vicente Fox. This telescope is a landmark in mexican astronomy. The LMT is the largest single dish radiotelescope working in the millimetric wavelengths (1-4 mm). It is located in the top of Sierra Negra, a 4,640 metres (15,223 feet) mountain in Puebla that was chosen for it's high altitude and dry air that avoids atmospheric absortion of millimetric radiation.

The LMT has a diameter of 50 metres and was a 150 millon investment that was built in 10 years ina cooperation between INAOE and UMass.

Millimetric wavelenghts are usually emitted in the coldest and densest places in the universe, this are the most oscured enviroments in the universe (the earliest stages of structure formation usually take place in sites) and observations at high resolutions had been scarce (there are also plans for large interferometric arrays at this wavelenghts like ALMA), this powerful new instrumention will finally allow us to solve some long standing problems in astronomy like high mass star formation.

The main scientific goals of the LMT are studies of structure formation in the universe, for example it will allow to observe directly the molecular cores where star formation takes place. It will also allow observations of the dust disks around young stars allowing us for first time a glimpse into planet formation. Other interesting proyects planned for the LMT are observations of some dusty starburst galaxies at large redshifts, obervations of the AGN's and studies of the center of the Galaxy that is remarkably difficult to study because the dust blocks light in almost all wavelengths, actually almost all our knowledege of the galactic core comes from radio wavelenghts, so this new window will surely give us many surprises.

No comments: