Stars in their eyes in a vineyard

“New Telescope to Study the Birth of the Universe” is the heading atop a wondrous press release posted at Scoop today.

Auckland astronomers are involved in a new high technology telescope which has just been installed on a Marlborough vineyard, it says.

So far, so good.

Then it says –

It will be used to study the birth of the universe and to search for distant planets.

At that point, Alf admits to becoming bemused (a state not uncommon to him).

He had thought – until now – the universe had been born, created, whatever, a wee while back.

Hence it would be difficult to observe it now, although if one were well fortified with product from the vineyard, one might well imagine seeing all sorts of things.

Including, it must be acknowledged, the birth of the universe, although Alf reckons he would need more than a few pints of finest pinot before his imagination ran riot to that extent.

The statement goes on to say the voyeurs in the vineyard will be observing the deaths of a few stars, too.

In an international collaboration between Spanish and New Zealand astronomers, one of the world’s fastest telescopes will attempt to detect the death of the first stars to have formed after the Big Bang. If successful, these will be by far the most distant objects ever studied by astronomers and provide important new clues to the conditions in the early Universe.

While the decision to site the telescope in a vineyard might appear unusual, the same high sunshine hours and low cloud cover that make Marlborough ideal for growing fine wine are the very same features valued by the astronomers.

For what it’s worth, the new telescope is robotic, so once it is programmed for the night, it will be able to work unattended.

Freeing up the scientists to enjoy themselves down in the cellar?

Not necessarily.

The buggers who do the peeping into the skies probably can do so from Auckland, because it can be operated directly via the Internet.

Two other matching telescopes are already operating in Spain so the New Zealand one will be the first to cover the southern hemisphere skies.

BOOTES-3 (as it’s called) is a collaborative project led by the Institute for Astrophysics of Andalucía and the universities of Auckland, Massey and Canterbury and the Stardome Observatory.

The new observatory housing the BOOTES-3 telescope is gloriously located at Vintage Lane Observatory near Blenheim (Marlborough, New Zealand).

Wonder how the Birth of the Universe will look if you do your peeping from the wrong end?

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