I ♥ Ultraviolet

As I often say, ultraviolet is my favourite colour. Actually, when I say this I’m not being entirely facetious. The ultraviolet part of the spectrum is a helpful area for people like me. Helpful but… also troublesome.

You see, optical and ultraviolet lines in astronomical spectra are normally caused by electrons jumping about in atoms and/or molecules. This happens to be what I pay close attention to, science-wise. Unfortunately, there are electrons in pretty much everything, which makes actually finding things in ultraviolet light somewhat problematic. The universe starts to look pretty messy in the deep violet part of the spectrum, and it doesn’t help that most existing telescopes aren’t particularly sensitive around there.

Evidently, this has also been noticed by a lot of people who aren’t me. I was told yesterday that people are calling for a large ultraviolet telescope, and there’s already quite a list of supporters. The project is being put forward by NUVA (the Network for UltraViolet Astrophysics), and I do very much hope that ESA decide to give this project some further development. We can’t really see very much in the shorter wavelength end of the EM spectrum, but some of the things we can see are remarkable indeed.

One of my recent such favourites is a tiny galaxy called IC 3418, weeping tears which are only visible in ultraviolet light

Poor little thing. It never had a chance!

In any case, this currently nameless telescope has a white paper all about why it’s a good idea – and it’s freely available to read online. I’m really hoping this gets plenty of support…

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About invaderxan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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