A team of Yale astronomers got a little crafty recently. In an attempt to see parts of space that their big fancy telescopes weren't showing them, they tied eight telephoto lenses together to create their own little homemade array. And then, thanks to their new invention, they quickly discovered seven new galaxies.
"These are the same kind of lenses that are used in sporting events like the World Cup. We decided to point them upward instead," said Pieter van Dokkum, chair of Yale's astronomy department, who helped design the telescope. The team decided to call the invention the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, since it resembled the insect's eyes. Meanwhile, a special coating that suppresses internally scattered light made it easier for the telescope to see the diffuse light of the new dwarf galaxies.
The Yale team hopes that their new telescope will help them see all kinds of previously undiscovered celestial objects, including debris caused by galaxies colliding long ago. It all goes to show you don't have to blow up mountains in South America to make exciting new astronomical discoveries. [Yale]