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A vision of heaven from a photo robot; Capturing stars 30m years away.

Byline: Laura Davies

THESE striking images are the first photographs of the heavens taken by the world's largest fully robotic telescope.

Taken from Liverpool John Moores University's Liverpool Telescope, they show galaxies and black holes up to 30m light years away.

They were taken on the first night of the apparatus's operation, from its base in the Canary Islands.

Prof Chris Collins, head of LJMU's Astrophysics Research Institute, said: ``These images show the telescope can produce research quality images.

``The point of the telescope is not its size, because there are bigger ones working, but how fast it can work.

``Most telescopes have research schedules that are booked up months in advance so if something is happening very quickly they miss them.

``We are able to study the violent events in space like stars exploding.''

Although the telescope is sited at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on the island of La Palma,it is operated from Liverpool.

Its robotic mechanism means it will eventually be able to work on its own with limited instruction from LJMU.

One of the most outstanding images is of the Whirlpool Galaxy,alarge spiral group of stars similar to our own Milky Way located around 30m light years away.

A Seyfert galaxy,also photographed by the Liverpool Telescope last week, is thought to contain a black hole which produces vast amounts of energy as it swallows surrounding stars, dust and gas.

Also captured on film were two nebulas, glowing shrouds of gas which surround the remains of a dead star.

The pictures were taken through special coloured filters.

Prof Collins said: ``This isolates different parts of the electro-magnetic spectrum and see different features in the object. Bluer colours show the hottest, youngest stars and red shows the cooler,less massive stars.''

The two metre telescope is also used to watch out for comets and asteroids which could pose a hazard to the Earth.

It does this by tracking newly discovered objects travelling nearby and accurately calculating their paths.

The telescope was designed and built by Telescope Technologies, a LJMU subsidiary company.

The project is supported by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council.

Five per cent of the research time has been donated by LJMU to the National Schools' Observatory programme which allows pupils to work on their own projects alongside professional astronomers.

CAPTION(S):

UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE: These amazing pictures, taken by the Liverpool Telescope on La Palma,are now being studied and interpreted by academics at John Moores University's Astrophysics Research Institute
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 5, 2003
Words:420
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