Astronomers Watch Stars Being Born

TUCSON, April 26 (UPI) — A new instrument has been installed in the world’s largest optical telescope, allowing a view of the most distant and faintest objects in the universe.

The instrument, called Lucifer, was installed in the Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona. The telescope’s U.S, German and Italian partners said Lucifer is the first of two new innovative near-infrared cameras and spectrographs to be installed in the telescope.

After more than a decade of design, manufacturing and testing, Lucifer provides a powerful tool to gain spectacular insights into the universe, the scientists said. Lucifer, built by a consortium of German institutes, will be followed by an identical instrument that is to be installed next year.

“With the large light-gathering power of the (telescope), astronomers are now able to collect the spectral fingerprints of the faintest and most distant objects in the universe,” said Professor Richard Green of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory and the telescope’s director.

Lucifer is mounted at the focus points of the telescope’s two giant 27.6-foot-diameter mirrors. Each instrument is cooled to minus 213 degrees Celsius to observe near-infrared wavelengths. The researchers said near-infrared observations are essential for understanding the formation of stars and planets.

Lucifer is an acronym for large binocular telescope near-infrared utility with camera and integral field unit for extragalactic research.

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