The outer regions of galaxies contain ancient stars ejected in collisions with other galaxies, as well as stars that were among the first to form in the galaxy's history. Understanding these regions helps trace the invisible dark matter structures enmeshed with the visible stars and gas that make up the most obvious component of a galaxy.
For the survey the team used a dedicated relatively small 28-inch (0.7-m) telescope based near Frazier Park, California; 119 galaxies were observed in the study, a larger data set than any previous survey of this type. Images were acquired using a CCD chip (similar to that found in digital cameras), with each pixel on the chip covering a larger area of sky than a similar system in larger telescopes. The result was that in a 1-hour exposure, the telescope reveals the faint shells and plumes ejected in galaxy collisions as clearly as a comparable length exposure on the 3.6-m Canada France Hawaii Telescope, or a total exposure time of 21 hours using a conventional amateur telescope. The total cost of the telescope system is economical too: roughly US$150,000 (£121,000) or less than 10% of the cost of similar competing projects.
Telescope - Size - Rich - Fish - Bay
"We were surprised at how powerful a telescope of such modest size could be," said Rich. "there will be many interesting fish to catch in this particular bay of the cosmic ocean, offering a potential lifetime of studies with very large telescopes," he added.
Noah Brosch, an astronomer at Tel Aviv University and a member of the team, is leading two additional studies of galaxy discs and galaxy groups, using an identical 28-inch telescope that is part of the HERON collaboration, at the Wise Observatory of Tel Aviv University, near Mitzpe Ramon, Israel. Brosch says: "The low surface brightness Universe hides many surprises amongst galaxies, small groups...
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