Discovery Channel Telescope Records First Images
The first images have been taken with the privately funded Discovery Channel Telescope - yes, that Discovery Channel.
The science channel's eye to the sky sits atop a mountain in Arizona as part of the Lowell Observatory. The 14-foot mirror of the telescope was exposed to the stars in what astronomer's refer to as 'first light' as it recorded images of the galaxy M109.
M 109 is a barred spiral galaxy about 85 or so million light years away in the direction of Ursa Major, and is part of a loose group containing about 50 other galaxies both big and small, according to Discover Magazine. It's the brightest in the group, and located on its far side from us.
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The $53 million Discovery Channel Telescope is the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States and is designed to see in optical light as well as near-infrared.
"The Discovery Channel Telescope is emblematic of our mission to ignite curiosity and stir the imagination of audiences here and around the globe," said John Hendricks, founder and chairman of Discovery Communications, according to Live Science. He and his wife Maureen were major donors to the project. "The telescope represents 'discovery' in both word and deed and we are thrilled to see the amazing places it will take us with breathtaking images and vital new research."
The testing phase for the stargazing apparatus will last 18 months, with first scientific data gathering to begin in 2013 or 2014. Its location, in the Coconino National Forest about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south-southeast of Flagstaff, is in a dark-sky site, one of the darkest, best places from which to view the night sky in the United States, reports Mother Nature Network.
The process of planning and building the telescope is due to be featured in a one-hour Discovery Channel documentary set to air in September 2012.
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