Issue 126, Spring 1993
The Very Large Telescope
will mark the completion,at last,
of nearly ten years’ design.
Soon to rise on a peak in the Chilean desert,
the machine will consist of four
telescopes spaced along a hundred meters,
each telescope with an 8-meter wide
membrane of mirrored glass.
Supports will push and pull the membrane
to balance gravitational effects.
Inflatable, fabric domes will fold
down to open the instruments to the night
sky, enabling them to point
as one into the collecting area.
To focus all four on the same subject,
to combine their light in phase,
will be ambitious in the extreme.
If it works, astronomers might achieve
resolutions sufficient to study
galactic nuclei— to see,
in fine detail, the turmoil of matter
at the birth of stars.
A candidate for a quasar has been detected
by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite:
IRAS 14348-1447 is the brightest, most
distant object in the Bright Galaxy Survey.
The strength of its emission is consistent
with a pattern of violent collisions
(molecular clouds in gas-rich spiral galaxies
that lead to rapid star formation)
and establishment of a dust-enshrouded object
whose raiment ultimately will be blown away
by stellar winds, by supernovae explosions,
by pressure from within the object itself.
For now, the shroud conceals much of the energy
generated by its spectacular, ultraluminous source.