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Unsung hero(in)es of astronomy February 2, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science.
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I spotted an interesting paper today in the optics journal Optics Express by astronomers Bland-Hawthorn and Kern, on astro-photonics. In the introductory paragraphs they write the following:

The unsung heroes of the inexorable march of astronomy are the instrument builders that place instruments at the telescope focus. The manipulation of faint light  requires a great deal of ingenuity if the instrument (e.g. spectrograph) is to achieve its theoretical limits within the hostile environment of a mountain-top observatory. The design and construction of the next generation of astronomical instruments presents us with an even bigger challenge. Simply scaling up existing technology leads to highly ineffective and costly instruments that are rarely optimized for the job at hand. The astronomical community must embrace new technological avenues.

It brought a tear, albeit proverbial, I was in the office, to my eye. Read the rest of the paper here.

Reference: Bland-Hawthorn & Kern, Astrophotonics: A new era for astronomical instrumentation, Optics Express vol. 17 no. 3, 1880-1884 (2009)



1. Nicole - February 4, 2009

Working with engineers on the instrumentation side of radio astronomy, I’m slowly beginning to learn just how precise and difficult the job of building a telescope is and what a fantastic job these people do! Without them, there is no astronomy.

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