Lobster eyes, ice sensors and liquid telescopes: which instruments use astrophysics

Lobster eyes, ice sensors and liquid telescopes: which instruments use astrophysics

The unusual properties of insect wings inspired scientists to create an anti-bacterial packaging, and animals' noses told us how to make masks that protect against infections but do not interfere with normal breathing. Astrophysics do not stand by and draw ideas from the surrounding world.

The National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently presented the world's first set of wide-angle X-ray maps of the sky from the Eye of Lobster telescope.

How does Lobster's Eye work?

Biologists have long discovered that the eyes of lobster are different from those of other animals. The optic system of these crustaceans consists of a variety of tiny square tubes aimed at the same spherical center. This structure allows light to be reflected in different directions in tubes and retina, which gives lobster a wide field of vision.

The human organs of vision, consisting of curved sticks and caps, break the light by concentrating the image on the retina. The eyes of the lobster reflect the light beams that enter under standard, very similar angles, at the same focal point.

A few decades ago, scientists proposed to model a lobster eye to create a telescope to detect X-rays in space, but this idea could not be realized for a long time until microprocessor technologies made it possible to simulate organs of vision.

The NAOC X-ray visualization laboratory began research and development in the field of lobster eye X-ray technology in 2010 and 10 years later presented a ready-made device.

The device consists of 36 "lobster eyes" with microporas and 4 LMC sensors with a large matrix that can operate with a large spectrological resolution, and researchers note that these are the first sensors to be constructed using the CMS technology.

According to scientists, the previous X-ray telescopes had a field of view the size of the Moon, as seen from the Earth, while the lobster telescope was capable of covering the celestial region in about a thousand Luns.

During the first launch, the test module held only 8 minutes in space. The full-value telescope will include 12 such modules. The system will be deployed on the Einstein Probe satellite, which the Chinese authorities plan to launch at the end of 2023.

Liquid mirror telescopes

There are many unusual devices around the world built to observe the sky, for example, in recent decades the concept of liquid mirror telescopes has become popular.

Such devices have a long but mixed history in astronomy. More than 300 years ago, Isaac Newton observed that the liquid in the rotating vessel could take the form of a parabola — that is, the surface should be at the telescope mirror to focus light at one point. In 1850, Italian astronomer Ernesto Capochchi finalized the idea, but failed to build a working model.

During the rest of this decade, London's astronomer Henry Sky studied the concept himself and experimented with its creation; he emigrated to New Zealand in 1860 and published a report on a liquid mirror working telescope in 1872; in the first half of the 20th century, scientists tried to refine the design, but all the devices were of low accuracy and suffered from vibrations.

With the development of large solid mirror technologies, the liquid mirror telescopes lost popularity. Until the 1980s, scientists began to regenerate this technology by addressing its deficiencies with modern technologies. From 1994 to 2002, NASA used a 3-metre-long liquid mirror telescope to scan the Earth's orbit for space debris.

Modern devices use shiny liquid mercury to collect and focus light; this metal has a strong reflectivity and remains liquid at room temperature, and it's much cheaper than expensive glass mirrors.

Slapping mirrors into parabolic shape is a labour-intensive and expensive task. The total cost of a liquid mercury telescope is about $2 million, while a solid-spectral telescope of similar size could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Because the shape of a liquid mirror telescope depends on gravity, it can only be shown straight up into anti-aircraft, but it is not as much a disadvantage as it may seem, because the "upper point" moves through the night sky along with the rotation of the Earth.

The largest modern telescope with such a mirror, the Large Air Defence Telescope, was operating in Canada, near Vancouver, from 2003 to 2016, and is now out of service and a 6-metre-sized mirror is being dismantled. It is expected that parts of its structure will be used in new devices. In addition, in the highlands of India, it is planned to deploy an International Liquid Mirror Telescope in late 2022.

A radio massage to search for an extraterrestrial mind.

Allen Telescope Array is the first radio telescope designed from scratch to be used in the search for extraterrestrial life. Prior to its creation, all efforts to detect traces of other civilizations in the radio band depended on the periodic use of antennas built for conventional astronomical observations.

A mass of 42 radio observation bars was built in 2007 near San Francisco with the co-founder, Microsoft Paul Allen, and former technical director of this IT giant Nathan Mirvold, originally expected to consist of 350 antennas, but so far the full system is short of funds.

The telescope's idea is a array of relatively small plates of sensitivity outside the main beam.

Allen's telescope mass was originally designed to cover frequencies ranging from 500 to 10,000 MHz, but is being upgraded to extend the range to 15 GHz, increase sensitivity and reliability.

The antenna is designed to use an offshore Grigorian system. The secondary mirror reflects incoming radio signals collected by a large , where they are reinforced and transmitted to the fiber-optics control buildings. For the telescope, a special software has been developed to remove all debris and interference and concentrate on life-related signals.

Ice observatory for neutrinos

The IceCube neutrine observatory, launched in 2010, is the first of its kind to monitor space from the South Pole ice fields and is built at the Amundsen-Scott station in Antarctica. Thousands of its sensors are located under the ice of the coldest continent, covering a total volume of 1 km3.

The observatory is looking for near-massless subatomic particles — neutrinos — these high-energy particles are helping to study the most dangerous astrophysical events: explosions of stars, gamma flashes and cataclysms involving black holes and neutron stars.

The observatory consists of 86 cables, each containing 60 digital optical modules. These devices contain extremely sensitive light detectors or photograms, as well as mini-computers that transmit data to the surface. The modules are attached to cables at depths ranging from 1450 to 2450 m under ice.

The observatory is located in optically transparent ice, which is very stable, and scientists estimate that the ice on the South Pole is moving about 10 metres per year as a whole piece, and every day IceCube registers 275 million cosmic rays and about 275 atmospheric neutrinos.