After years of planning and hard work, the Gemini Observatory team recently unveiled some of the work they performed using one of their newly installed instruments. Called the FLAMINGOS-2, the instrument provides astronomers with a powerful mix of capabilities, including high-resolution wide-field imaging (infrared) as well as spectroscopy. The newly mounted piece is already on high demand at the observatory, since it’s capable of observations spanning from the exploration of our Solar System, to the most distant and energetic explosions in our universe.
“The Gemini team has done a remarkable job in optimizing this instrument for Gemini and it will soon be everything, and more, that we had envisioned years ago when the project began,” says Steve Eikenberry, who led the team who built FLAMINGOS-2 at the University of Florida. “Like a lot of scientists, I’m anxious to use FLAMINGOS-2 to collect data – specifically, I want to look toward the center of our Galaxy and study binary black holes as well as the mass evolution of the super-massive black hole that lurks at the heart of our Galaxy.”
To demonstrate the capabilities of the FLAMINGOS-2, Gemini released a couple of simply mind-blowing images captured using the newly mounted instrument. These photos cover a wide range of targets which are representative of the types of science in which FLAMINGOS-2 is expected to excel. All images and captions courtesy of the Gemini Observatory.
This FLAMINGOS-2 near-infrared image details part of the magnificent Swan Nebula (M17), where ultraviolet radiation streaming from young hot stars sculpts a dense region of dust and gas into myriad fanciful forms. M17 lies some 5,200 light-years distant in the constellation Sagittarius and is one of the most massive and luminous star-forming region’s in our Galaxy. It is also one of the most studied. Field of view: 5.5 x 4.0 arcmin. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA
NGC 6300 is an intriguing barred spiral galaxy in the constellation of Ara. This near-infrared image with FLAMINGOS-2 shows the galaxy’s complex arm structure forming a spectacular ring of star formation. The galaxy’s bar also has a strong vein of dust that almost obscures its bright active nucleus –– whose prodigious energy is the result of matter accreting onto a black hole with an estimated mass of 280,000 Suns. Field of view: 3.1 x 2.9 arcmin. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA
In this near-infrared image, FLAMINGOS-2 peered deep into the heart of spiral galaxy NGC 253, which lies about 11.5 million light-years nearby in the constellation of Sculptor. The new instrument captured an intricate whirlpool of dust spiraling in to a diffuse nuclear region, where violent star formation may be occurring around a supermassive black hole. The instrument also imaged a dusting of star forming sites in its spiral arms. Field of view: 4.8 x 4.1 arcmin. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA
Spiral galaxy NGC 7582 is the brightest member of the Grus Quartet of galaxies, some 60 million light-years distant traveling together through space. In this near-infrared image, FLAMINGOS-2 resolved its high quantity of dust that line NGC 7582’s arms as well as regions rich in star formation. Field of view: 2.5 x 1.7 arcmin. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA