Astronomy undergraduates have serendipitously discovered a new class of star that thrills astronomers who specialize in a relatively new field called “asteroseismology.” Astronomers worldwide will collaborate in continuous observations of one of these newly found stars for several weeks in May 2003. “Astronomers are always looking for new and better ways to study stars,” said Elizabeth Green, University of Arizona assistant staff astronomer at Steward Observatory, who with her students discovered the new class of stars. They have found sub-dwarf B stars that pulsate like Jell-O, quivering in space through cycles that typically last an hour.
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Astronomers have successfully tested a new method to remove atmospheric blurring from large ground based telescopes. The experiments were made in November 2002 and January 2003 at the 6.5-meter (21-foot) telescope at the MMT Observatory on Mount Hopkins, Ariz. The project is a collaboration of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory and Italy’s Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri in Florence. It uses revolutionary new technology developed with support from the U.S. Air Force.
Astronomers have discovered three of the oldest, most distant quasars yet found — quasars close to the Big Bang that began the universe. Xiaohui Fan of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory in Tucson, Ariz., will present the results at the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Seattle. Fan, leader of the team that discovered the objects, explained that these distant quasars — compact but luminous objects thought to be powered by super-massive black holes — reach back to a time when the universe was just 800 million years old. The highest redshift quasar is roughly 13 billion light years away and was discovered recently in the constellation Ursa Major.