April 24, 2009

World’s Largest Gamma-Ray Scope Prepares For First Light

The largest-ever gamma-ray telescope is set to collect its "first light" at an opening ceremony on Saturday.

Located on the island of Palma, the Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cerenkov Magic II will replace its predecessor, the Magic telescope.

When it was built, the first Magic telescope was the largest gamma-ray telescope in the world, until 2003, when the four-telescope High-energy Stereoscopic System (Hess) was unveiled.

Now, Magic's successor will reclaim the title once more, but later this year the Hess II is expected to once again take it back. This week, the first load of parts for the 30-meter, 600-ton Hess II arrived at the site where it will be constructed.

Magic, and other scopes in its class observe gamma rays indirectly by watching for Cerenkov radiation "“ seen as a blue glow of electromagnetic radiation when a charged particle passes faster than the speed of light.

"Gamma ray telescopes deal with the highest possible energies and processes that take place in the Universe," Razmik Mirzoyan, the astrophysicist who is leader of the MPI's Magic group, told BBC News.

"For a given process one needs to measure its proper messengers, so for measuring very high energies one needs to measure the photons that carry these very energies - gamma rays," he said.

The addition of the Magic II to the first Magic scope will provide stereoscopic vision. The collaboration of the two scopes will cause experiments to become nine times faster with three times the resolution produced by Magic alone.

"For dark matter searches, our potential will strongly increase," Dr Mirzoyan added. "The pair of Magics will improve our sensitivity at energies of a few tens of gigaelectron volts, where the signatures of the dark matter could be anticipated."


Image Caption: MAGIC-II is the latest addition to the Roque de los Muchachos observatory. This site, with its fine astronomic conditions, also hosts other leading astronomocal instruments like the Italian Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (left) and the Gran Telescopio Canarias, the largest optical telescope. Courtesy Robert Wagner


On the Net: