10 Canon 400mm lenses joined together to form a network of telescopes to observe distant galaxies

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A set of Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto lenses have been transformed into a unique telescope for studying ultra-faint galaxies and astronomical objects in the southern sky. The Huntsman Telescope is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere and the project was developed by Macquarie University’s School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences with Australian Astronomical Optics Macquarie (both part of the faculty of science and engineering).

The Huntsman concept was inspired by the Dragonfly Telephoto Array (opens in a new tab) which also uses Canon’s 400mm f/2.8L super telephoto lens, but now has two banks of 24 lenses. It was developed by the University of Toronto and is installed in New Mexico, USA.

The telescope’s main task is to help determine what might happen if the Milky Way were to collide head-on with its neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy – an event believed to occur 4.5 billion years from now.

“The Huntsman Telescope is a pioneer in how we view our southern skies by capturing images of the faintest galaxy structures that conventional telescopes simply could not,” says Huntsman Telescope Principal Investigator Dr. Lee Spitler.

The Huntsman Telescope dome at Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia. (Image credit: Australian Camera)

“The ability to observe remnants of galaxies colliding with each other and to search for the faintest and smallest galaxies in the universe will help us understand the potential fate of the Milky Way in the distant future. “

The Huntsman Telescope has been installed at Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran in New South Wales. Due to its location on the border between the mid-west and north-west slopes regions of New South Wales, Coonabarabran is well suited for stargazing and has become the astronomy capital of New South Wales. ‘Australia. Huntsman Observatory is located on top of Mount Woorat – 1,165 meters above sea level – in Warrumbungle National Park.

The front view of the Huntsman Telescope (Image credit: Australian Camera)

The rear view of the telescope showing the light-gathering sensor modules. (Image credit: Australian Camera)

The 10 Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L telephoto lenses are exactly like those you might buy at a camera store and were selected for their anti-reflective properties derived from Canon’s patented nano-engineered coatings with sub-length structures wave on the optical glass. A multi-coated lens array is considered a superior alternative to a conventional mirror telescope where tiny imperfections in the polished surface can introduce subtle errors that ruin the extensive and faint structures surrounding galaxies.

Additionally, each lens in the array is equipped with a single monolithic wide-field detector covering six square degrees. With multiple redundant lines of sight, the Huntsman Telescope is capable of extremely accurate emission modeling of the night sky and producing ultra-clear renderings of the universe.

The Tarantula Nebula photographed through the Huntsman Telescope. (Image credit: Sarah Caddy, PhD candidate, Macquarie University)

(Image credit: Sarah Caddy, PhD candidate, Macquarie University)

Sarah Caddy is part of the telescope’s nine-member engineering and science team and is also a PhD candidate in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at Macquarie University. She notes that what was learned from the Dragonfly Array program and the concept of combining multiple EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super telephoto lenses will allow the Huntsman telescope to adapt to the needs of scientists in the future. The Dragonfly Array started with eight lenses in 2013, later grew to 10, then in 2016 expanded to the twin 24 arrays currently in use.

“The Huntsman’s powerful new suite of computers allows each lens or ‘eye’ of the Huntsman to operate independently of each other,” says Sarah. “This will allow the telescope to autonomously detect ultrafast transient events like stellar flares from distant stars, or even more exotic phenomena like helping to find the origin of fast radio bursts that continue to elude astronomers.”

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