Tuesday, August 04, 2015

UTSA student astronomers use world's largest optical, infrared telescope

UTSA students in Spain
giant telescope in Spain

Top photo: UTSA students and research at telescope control room -- From left are Laura McMaster, Lindsay Fuller, Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez and Carlos Alvarez
Bottom photo: 10.4-meter Gran Telescopio Canarias at La Palma, Spain

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(Sept. 6, 2013) -- In July, the biggest optical/infrared telescope in the world was put in the hands of UTSA astronomers. For a week, two graduate students, Laura McMaster and Lindsay Fuller, and post-doctoral researcher Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez from the UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy performed astronomical observations at the 10.4-meter Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) at La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain.

Their goal was to observe the central regions of active galaxies that have a supermassive black hole at their center to advance their research about the structure and evolution of the objects.

The GTC is at the top of La Palma, one of the steepest islands in the world at 7,438 feet above sea level. At that altitude, the clouds are almost always below the telescope allowing for stable and clear skies. These conditions are excellent for using the telescope's infrared instrument called CanariCam. UTSA Assistant Professor Christopher Packham was one of the lead scientists in its development.

"Since relatively few 10-meter class telescopes exist, it is essential for students to travel there in order to train and collect data. This will be only one of many observing trips for them," said Lopez-Rodriguez.

McMaster and Fuller were instructed in how to perform astronomical observations by Lopez-Rodriguez and the GTC support astronomers. For the students, it was a quick introduction to the operation of scientific equipment and data analysis. "While there, we were able to observe the center of the Milky Way as well as several other distant galaxies," McMaster said.

Observations in infrared light, a form of light with a longer wavelength than visible light, are used by astronomers to better study dusty areas in galaxies. In the infrared, the dusty clouds appear bright, instead of dark and obscure as they do in visible light.

The trip was not just an observational training for the students but also an introduction to the collaborative format that the field of astronomy encourages. By creating partnerships, UTSA has the ability to enhance its scientific productivity using world-class facilities.

"The trip was literally on-the-job training, which just happened to be at the largest optical-infrared facility available in the world," said McMaster.

 

 

Did You Know?

For acclaimed UTSA writer, poetry rhymes with life

Robert Penn Warren said: “How do poems grow? They grow out of your life.” That is certainly true for Carmen Tafolla. An associate professor of practice with the UTSA College of Education and Human Development, Tafolla has authored more than 20 acclaimed books of poetry and prose, including "The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans." It won the Tom´s Rivera Children’s Book Award in 2009.

Tafolla is a San Antonio native who grew up on the West Side. Attending a private high school, she realized that the literature did not positively portray her community or the people who lived there. She determined to change that in her writing. In published works for both adults and children — more than 200 anthologies, magazines, journals, textbooks and readers in four languages — Tafolla reflects on the rich Mexican-American culture of San Antonio in which she grew up.

Did you know? Tafolla was San Antonio's first Poet Laureate, from 2012 to 2014, and currently serves as the Poet Laureate of Texas.

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Aug. 4, 6 - 8 p.m.

Free Teacher Tuesday: Los Tejanos Workshop

Discover resources and strategies for teaching Tejano history and culture and get a special educator's tour of the new long-term exhibit, Los Tejanos.
Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.

Aug. 6, 5 - 7 p.m.; 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

6th Annual Texas Higher Education Symposium

This annual symposium is an opportunity to discuss Texas higher education issues and trends with Texas higher education scholars, state and local government officials, students, and campus and local community members.
Downtown Campus

Aug. 9, 12 - 5 p.m.

Vaquerocation 2015

This cowboy-themed programming, offered in conjunction with Our Kids Magazine's Kidcation Week, gives families the opportunity to visit with cowboy docents, enjoy readings and visit activity tables.
Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.

Aug. 17, 11:30 p.m.

Midnight Light

Join President Ricardo Romo, The Spirit of San Antonio Marching Band, students, faculty and staff to light the monument at the Main Campus entrance at the stroke of midnight.
John Peace Boulevard Entrance, Main Campus

Aug. 18, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

President's BBQ on the Plaza

Join university President Ricardo Romo on the Bill Miller Plaza for his annual free BBQ lunch.
Bill Miller Plaza, Downtown Campus

Aug. 18, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

President's BBQ on the Lawn

Join university President Ricardo Romo on the Convocation Center lawn for his annual free BBQ lunch.
Convocation Center East Lawn, Main Campus

Aug. 22, 6 p.m.

UTSA Alumni Gala

The UTSA Alumni Association hosts this annual gala honoring the Alumna of the Year, Alumnus of the Year and the Alumnus of the Year Lifetime Achievement award winners.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, 9800 Hyatt Resort Dr.


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