LUCIFER allows astronomers to observe stars being born

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Washington, April 23 (ANI): A new instrument for the world's largest optical telescope, the Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham, in south-eastern Arizona, allows astronomers to watch stars being born.

The new instrument, dubbed LUCIFER 1, provides a powerful tool to gain spectacular insights into the universe - from the Milky Way to extremely distant galaxies.

LUCIFER (Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research)), built by a consortium of German institutes, will be followed by an identical twin instrument that will be delivered to the telescope in early 2011.

LBT director Richard Green, a professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory, said: "With the large light-gathering power of the LBT, astronomers are now able to collect the spectral fingerprints of the faintest and most distant objects in the universe."

LUCIFER 1 and its twin are mounted at the focus points of the LBT's two giant 8.4-meter (27.6 foot) diameter telescope mirrors.

Each instrument is cooled to -213 degrees Celsius in order to observe in the near-infrared wavelength range.

Near-infrared observations are essential for understanding the formation of stars and planets in our galaxy as well as revealing the secrets of the most distant and very young galaxies.

LUCIFER's innovative design allows astronomers to observe in unprecedented detail, for example star forming regions, which are commonly hidden by dust clouds.

The instrument is remarkably flexible, combining a large field of view with a high resolution.

It provides three exchangeable cameras for imaging and spectroscopy in different resolutions according to observational requirements. (ANI)

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