Apr 22 2012
By Bob Smyth
ian mclean keck telescope Image 3
AN astronomy professor has invented a “time machine” to gaze deeper into the universe than ever before.
Ian McLean, originally from Port Glasgow, is the brains behind a new five-ton infrared camera installed in a monster telescope in Hawaii.
It will allow astronomers to study the earliest galaxies in the universe, which have never been examined before.
The University of California, Los Angeles, where Ian works, hailed the invention as “a time machine of sorts” as it looks deep into the history of the universe.
The 62-year-old got his love of astronomy from his father, a merchant seaman who was an expert navigator.
He began star-gazing as an eight-year-old, never dreaming he would one day help others peer deeper into space than ever before.
Ian and his wife Janet, who is from the Borders, have worked in the US for more than 20 years.
Their children – Joanna, 33, David, 29, and Graham, 27 – were born in Edinburgh.
The MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration), an eight-year project by Ian and his university colleagues, is being tested over the next two months and will be ready for use later in the year.
MOSFIRE gathers light in infrared wavelengths — invisible to the human eye — allowing it to cut through cosmic dust and see distant objects whose light has been stretched to infrared by the expansion of the universe.
It is the most advanced camera of its kind and has been installed in the Keck I Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
Ian, who used to work at Glasgow University and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, said: “MOSFIRE was designed to study the most distant, faintest galaxies.
“Some of the galaxies we are studying were formed 10billion years ago — only a few billion years after the Big Bang.
“That is an era that we need to study if we are going to understand the large-scale structure of the universe.
“We would like to investigate the environment of those early galaxies.”university of california, history of the universe, Ian McLean <BR/>