An automated optics system developed in part by UNC Professor Nick Law brings clarity to astronomical observation. The robotic adaptive optics system (Robo-AO) has already been used to observe 715 of the star systems detected by the Kepler Space Mission. It utilizes lasers to reduce atmospheric noise and capture data automatically, eliminating the need for manual telescope calibration and thus saving time while producing very high quality results. There are plans to develop similar technology on UNC’s SOAR telescope project in Chile.
A novel telescope proposed by UNC astronomer Nick Law will take images of the whole sky every two minutes to look for exoplanets transiting in front of their host stars, and other transient events. The project has been fully funded by the NSF Advanced Technologies and Instrumentation (ATI) program and has been featured in MIT Technology Review.
Astronomers have discovered what is quite possibly the coldest, faintest white dwarf star ever observed. Its carbon has cooled to a point that it has crystallized, creating what is essentially a “diamond” in space that is roughly the size of earth. UNC-CH graduate student Bart Dunlap contributed to the research that led to this finding.