Sat, May 11, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Taiwan-led observatory breaks ground in Mexico

Staff writer, with CNA

A groundbreaking ceremony was held earlier this month in Mexico to mark the start of construction on a Taiwan-led astronomical observation project, Taiwan’s representative office in Mexico said yesterday.

The Transneptunian Automated Occultation Survey (TAOS-2) at the Mexican National Astronomical Observatory in Baja California aims to measure the size distribution of small objects in the solar system beyond the planet Neptune.

The project is being led by scientists from Academia Sinica’s Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in cooperation with the National Autonomous University of Mexico Institute of Astronomy and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory of the US.

During the ceremony on Thursday last week, Representative to Mexico Andrea Lee (李新穎) said the project is the first scientific collaboration between Taiwan, Mexico and the US.

It will not only promote substantial cooperation with Mexico, but also benefit all mankind, Lee said.

Academia Sinica said the project is expected to increase understanding of the formation and evolution of the solar system.

TAOS-2 will use three 1.3m robotic telescopes with the latest high-speed cameras to carry out a census of stellar occultations by small bodies on the periphery of the solar system, it said.

A stellar occultation occurs when the light from a star is blocked by an intervening body (such as a planet or moon) from reaching an observer.

The data obtained from observing such an event allows scientists to learn more about the atmospheric temperature, density, chemical composition and structure of the bodies.

Operations at TAOS-2 are scheduled to begin in 2016.

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