Academia Sinica -- in collaboration with research groups in several other countries -- has completed the construction of the WIRCam -- wide-field infrared camera -- adding near-infrared space observing capacity to the existing MegaCam located in Hawaii, according to an Academia Sinica press release issued yesterday.
Both the WIRCam and the MegaCam -- a wide-vision visible light camera -- are modules attached to the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), a 3.6-m telescope established in 1977 on top of the 4,000m-high Mauna Kea.
Taiwan and Korea joined the project in 2000.
The MegaCam is the largest wide-field digital camera ever deployed on telescopes and contributes greatly to astronomical research.
However, its function was later found to be limited because it could only capture visible light.
Therefore, the CFHT initiated the WIRCam project to enhance the MegaCam with near-infrared capacity.
Academia Sinica and National Central University received funding from the Ministry of Education in 2000 and joined the development of WIRCam in 2001.
Members from both institutes participated in system design, IR detector electronics, chip testing and the real-time data pipeline system for the camera.
According to Typhoon Lee (李太楓), an adjunct fellow of the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Academia Sinica, the CFHT can now "see" from the near ultra-violet (0.320 micrometers) to the near infrared (2.5 micrometers) on the light spectrum.
Lee said that the 16-MegaPixel WIRCam, equipped with the next generation of infrared detectors and on-chip guidance capability, is able to reduce noise and adjust itself against strong wind and vibrations.
By putting forward US$2 million for the project's US$5-million cost and US$7 million annual maintenance fee, Taiwanese researchers are entitled to use the telescope for 68 nights over four years.
Taiwan's team has already started observations on star formations, planetary nebulae, molecular hydrogen emissions of galaxies, brown dwarfs, high redshift galaxies and gamma ray bursters.
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