Starstruck - Y Magazine
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Out of the Blue


GalaxyIn the densest part of the Milky Way, near the constellation Sagittarius, lurks the Omega Nebula (M17), a cloud of gas about 5,000 light-years from earth and 15 light-years across. In August BYU’s new optical telescope captured this image of M17, one of the first pictures taken by the instrument housed in BYU’s West Mountain Observatory. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant and university donors, the 0.9-meter telescope is the largest in Utah and opens new research opportunities in high-precision astronomical measurement. “Whereas the old telescope could measure just one star at a time, the new instrument is capable of measuring tens of thousands of stars simultaneously and exposing on faint objects for 100 times longer than we could before,” says astronomy professor Michael D. Joner (BS ’79), who oversees the observatory. “It’s kind of like comparing a 1958 Edsel to a 2010 Corvette. They are both cars, but the comparison kind of stops there.”