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Researchers using the MMT's Blue Channel Spectrograph have discovered a pair of white dwarfs circling one another at high speed, taking only 20 minutes to complete one orbit. Only eight other similar pairs are currently known. The new discovery is a fast one, with the orbital period the second-quickest of those already found. The two white dwarfs are about one-third and one-tenth the mass of the Sun and are expected to merge completely in less than 9 million years, slowly losing their angular momentum through gravitational wave radiation.
Starting on June 25, the Mt. Hopkins Road will be open as normal until further notice. The currently scheduled roadwork has been completed. The next phase of work will resume later in the summer.
Dr. Trevor C. Weekes, pioneering figure in the study of very high energy gamma rays, passed away on May 26th. Dr. Weekes played key roles in the selection of the Mt. Hopkins summit as the site for the MMTO, and in gaining U.S. Forest Service permission for the summit access road to extend from the ridge to the summit. Dr. Weekes also led an observatory outreach program with the surrounding communities and started the Smithsonian Lectures on Astronomy series. Read more.
I. McGreer (Steward Observatory) and his collaborators have reported the serendipitous discovery of companion galaxies to two high-redshift quasars, one of which was identified with observations using the MMT's Red Channel Spectrograph! Both companions are among the brightest galaxies known at these large distances, and the detection of such objects is rare. Their new evidence suggests that the two pairs are enormous galaxies in the final stages of merging together. Read more.
Culvert work will be done on the Mt. Hopkins Road at the km 9.5 area this week. The road will be open at the following times only: 8:00-8:30am, noon-12:30pm, and 4:00pm-7:00am. It will be open over the weekend.
The observing schedule for May through August has been posted, along with program titles.
SAO scientist Nelson Caldwell has used the MMT and Hectospec instrument to discover the first hypervelocity globular cluster, located near the central galaxy of the Virgo Cluster. Read more.
Using the MMT's Blue Channel Spectrograph, SAO scientist Warren Brown has completed a survey of Milky Way hypervelocity stars, resulting in the discovery of three new objects. Read more.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, March 18 & 19, potholing work will be done on the Mt. Hopkins Road at one location near km 5.5 and two locations near km 9.5. The road will be closed at 8:30am, open between noon-12:30pm, closed from 12:30-4:00pm, and reopen at 4:00pm. Power will also be disconnected at 7:00am and turned back on after 4:00pm each day. The motor generator will provide power during the day.
There will be two additional road openings during the day on March 19 to accommodate the tour bus, if needed.
Astronomy Magazine editor, David Eicher, recently visited the MMTO and the Whipple Observatory. Read about his visit in his blog and be sure to look at his photo gallery at the end of his blog!