Observing, spanish style
More good news for the Zoo arrived this week. As Bill prepares for our next observing run on top on Kitt Peak in Arizona, we received an email that we’ve been awarded time on the giant 30m radio dish of the IRAM observatory above Granada for not one, but two Zoo projects. The first is the beginning of our campaign to make use of the beautiful catalogue of merging galaxies the Zoo provides, led by Daniel Darg here in Oxford. The second is the project the Zoo was originally designed for, teasing out the effect of black holes in star formation in ellipticals. Kevin and I have already had great success doing this with IRAM, but the ability of the Zoo to find nearby blue ellipticals will be of enormous value.
In both cases, we’ll be looking for the signature of carbon monoxide (CO) in the galaxies. That might sound obscure, but CO is actually the second most common molecule in the Universe. The most common is just hydrogen, H2, but that’s hard to detect so instead we go after CO. Once you know how much CO there is, there’s a well-established formula that gives you the star formation rate, something which we need to know if we’re going to understand how the galaxies are evolving.
We’re waiting for the final schedules to be drawn up, but it looks like at least one Zookeeper will be spending New Year up a mountain. Watch this space.