This stunning photo shows a star you’ve never seen before

A bit like neon artwork from the 80s. But what the photo above really shows is much cooler.

It’s a star, and the first optical image taken by the latest instrument on the Gemini South Telescope, the Gemini High-Resolution Optical SpecTrograph, or GHOST. What it shows is the entire optical spectrum of light emitted by a star called HD 222925, with amazing resolution.

“This is an exciting landmark for astronomers around the world who rely on Gemini South to study the universe from this exceptional vantage point in Chile,” said Jennifer Lutz, director of the Gemini Observatory.

“Once this next generation instrument is up and running, GHOST will be an essential component of astronomers’ toolbox.”

The light that we can actually see emanating from the stars is full of hidden details describing the features of the distant sun. Whether a star is moving can show us how light travels from one end of the spectrum to the other, while differences in brightness can reveal internal oscillations, which can be analyzed by seismologists.

The full spectrum of a star also reveals what it’s made of, which in turn can be used to find out all sorts of things about it, like the age of the star and where it formed.

That’s because different elements absorb and re-emit light differently. When astronomers look at a star’s spectrum, they can look for brighter and fainter wavelengths, and use that information to determine which elements are in the star’s atmosphere.

You can see what the faint features, known as absorption lines, look like in the image below.

Spectrum named HD 222925. (Gemini International Observatory / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA / GHOST Consortium)

This technique was recently used in Hubble observations of HD 222925, a truly eccentric star located about 1,460 light-years away. Spectroscopy has revealed most of the elements ever seen in the star’s atmosphere, a massive 65 – mostly heavy elements that can only form in very energetic events, such as a neutron star collision or a supernova.

This means that HD 222925, which was at a very late stage to the end of its life, may have formed from a cloud that was primarily rich in these elements, sorted due to the death of the stars that preceded it.

New photos from GHOST haven’t revealed anything new about the star — until now. The star was the target of the instrument’s “first light”, the first image taken by a new telescope to check how the telescope was working, and how well it worked. This allows the scientists to make any necessary initial adjustments to the instrument.

Next comes the commissioning phase, where scientists and technicians will put GHOST through its paces to make sure the device works as intended.

Once this stage is complete, and any further modifications made, GHOST will be ready for scientific observation, likely in the first half of next year.

That will be something to look forward to. GHOST, which took 10 years to build, is 10 times more powerful than the other major Gemini optical spectrometer, GMOS. Scientists say it is the most powerful and sensitive spectrometer of its kind currently working on similar telescopes.

GHOST is expected to be able to provide fascinating insights into stars that have been identified as interesting targets by telescopes and other surveys, and to provide us with many more stars, divided into their component wavelengths – beautiful ‘star arcs’ that will hopefully unlock many hidden secrets. Milky Way.

Images posted by NOIRLab’s Gemini International Observatory here.

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