Our friends at the University of Utah’s Department of Physics and Astronomy have begun sharing images from their new observatory located high in the San Francisco Mountains just to the west of the little town of Milford, in Beaver County.
When a telescope takes in its first view of the heavens the event is celebrated by astronomers as “First Light,” and it’s a pretty big deal for an observatory. No… champagne bottles were not smashed against the telescope by dignitaries, but it is nonetheless worthy of celebration.
The First Light image for this new telescope is the edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 891, which is located in the constellation Andromeda about three and a half degrees northeast of the bright star Almach.
What’s really impressive about this first image from the U’s Frisco Peak Observatory is the crispness of foreground stars, many clearly visible distant background galaxies and numerous dark vertical tendrils of dust that can be seen extending perpendicular to the plane of the galaxy. Those huge pillars of galactic dust are evidence of highly energetic stellar phenomena such as supernova explosions within the galaxy itself.
All of this was captured in a three minute exposure! In other words, the U’s got a really nice telescope on their hands.
We’re looking forward to having U of U astronomers share some of their research with us at upcoming public lectures here at the Clark Planetarium. Keep an eye on these pages for announcements.