Mount Wilson's Improved Eye Finds Faint Companions

June 14, 2002 | A new infrared camera is helping to bring the venerable 100-inch Hooker reflector atop Mount Wilson back into frontline research — despite its location near light-polluted Los Angeles. Jian Ge (Penn State) announced this week that the first-light images from the Penn State IR Imager and Spectrograph (PIRIS), used in conjunction with the telescope's adaptive-optics system, revealed very faint stellar companions around the stars Mu Herculis, HD 190067, and HIP 13855. The instrument uses an innovative aperture mask that allows faint objects to stand out close to bright ones. Ge explains, "The technique potentially improves contrast in images by more than tenfold compared to current techniques. We hope these observing techniques will help us find and study many fainter dwarf stars and massive planets in binary systems so we can learn how planets form within such systems." The results will be published in the June Astrophysical Journal Letters and the July Astronomical Journal.

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