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Posted on Thursday, December 13 - 2007

" Copyright ABCStunning pictures of nebulae have been captured as part of the first optical digital survey of the northern section of the Milky Way. More than 50 astronomers worldwide, including Associate Professor Quentin Parker of the Anglo-Australian Observatory, have been tracking l..."

The centre of the Rosette Nebula as imaged in the latest digital survey.

Copyright ABC

Stunning pictures of nebulae have been captured as part of the first optical digital survey of the northern section of the Milky Way. More than 50 astronomers worldwide, including Associate Professor Quentin Parker of the Anglo-Australian Observatory, have been tracking light emitted by hydrogen ions.They used the wide-field camera on the 2.5 metre Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma in the Canary Islands. About 200 million objects have been catalogued as part of the so-called IPHAS survey, which was conducted over 212 nights between September 2003 and December2005.The results are published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and online as a result of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance. The researchers say the initial data release is of observations of the northern plane of the Milky Way that cover 1600 square degrees in two broadband colours and a narrow band filter sensitive to the emission of hydrogen in the red part of the spectrum. IPHAS principal investigator Professor Janet Drew, of the UK's University of Hertfordshire, says by targeting the hydrogen marker the group was able to look at some of the "least understood stars in the galaxy, those in the early and very late stages of their life cycles". "These represent less than 1 in a 1000 stars, so the IPHAS survey will greatly improve ourpicture of stellar evolution," says Drew, of the Centre for Astrophysics Research.

Significant University of Cambridge researcher Dr Nic Walton says publication of the data on the Astrogrid virtual observatory interface is an effective way of exploiting the data. "This is a substantial and significant survey which aims to eventually contain 700-800 million objects," Walton says. "Access through the Astrogrid Virtual Observatory opens up a full range of analysis options and should allow astronomers to make greater use of the information." The IPHAS collection is the largest dataset yet to be published primarily through a virtual observatory. The International Virtual Observatory Alliance is an initiative aimed atproviding intern.......

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