Monday, July 24, 2006

Observing the Cold Universe

Astronomers observe the Universe over a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum from gamma rays to x-rays to the ultraviolet visible and infrared. The JCMT views the sky in the submillimetre region of the spectrum, i.e, at wavelengths just under a millimetre. At these wavelengths, the telescope can detect objects in the dusty regions in space that would normally be obscured at visible wavelengths. Because the wavelength of radiation is related to the temperature of its source, submillimetre measurements can reveal something about cooler objects in space (-263 C), like interstellar dust.

JCMT revolutionized our understanding of the cold Universe with an innovative instrument called SCUBA. SCUBA observations have helped open up a whole new area of study – that of the evolution of early galaxies. As revolutionary as SCUBA was, later this year its successor SCUBA2 will be delivered to Hawaii. SCUBA2 will be much more sensitive than SCUBA and will be able to produce images up to 1000 times faster than SCUBA.

Canada is a member of the consortium building SCUBA2 with work being done at the University of Waterloo and the University of British Columbia among other places.

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