The Edge...the GRAS Edge


Not too many 'amateur' astronomers are capable of seeing to the edge of the Universe.  When the idea first occurred to him, neither did Dr. Christian Sasse. Dr. Sasse, a German-Canadian, Engineer and Physicist, keen astronomer and all round good guy, stumbled onto this idea due to his acquaintance with fellow Canadian, Paul Boltwood (works at MaximDL) who according to Christian, “inspired me (without him knowing) to go even further than his record for the faintest object.”  So Dr. Sasse embarked on a project that took much personal effort and over two years of attempts.

He has now commissioned the fabrication of a new star machine that he felt certain would allow us 'amateurs' to peer back in time, to galaxies far, far away.  Actually...a certain quasar in Ursa Major, powered by a supermassive black hole 3 billion times the mass of our Sun.

When J1148+5251 was first detected by Earthlings in 2003, it was crowned as the oldest & most distant object ever observed (now its a close 2nd). An ancient quasi stellar object with a red shift of z=6.41 and thus around 12.9 billion light years from the chair in which you are now sitting.

This monster roared into existence with brutal cosmic power only 800 million years after the universe began. Sending out infrared luminosity over 22 trillion times brighter than our own mediocre star. Forming a huge bubble of carbon monoxide molecules around its host galaxy 30 million light-years in diameter.

This week Christian pointed the newly launched GRAS017, a 17", PlaneWave CPK Telescope based at the GRAS-Astrocamp facility in Nerpio, Spain, to an otherwise blank piece of sky.  Sasse proceeded to capture a few hundred thousand very old photons on its CCD camera during 12 hours of (144x300 second) exposures. It should be noted, that this object is not amplified gravitationally by lensing. Its magnit
ude in the infrared is estimated at 23.3.

Sasse explained, "The G17 telescope was designed to extend the frontiers of amateur observing. The combination of a world-class telescope with superb collimated optics (17” PlaneWave) and an enhanced ProLine E2V CCD47-10-1-109 Deep Depletion Fused Silica FLI  CCD with extended red sensitivity has made a dream come true. Now an amateur can reach magnitudes far beyond 23, in fact one galaxy in this field is confirmed at MAG 26.9 in the visible!"

As far as we at GRAS know, after much research, Christian and G17 have achieved two records for amateur astronomy; the most distant and the faintest amateur observation ever achieved on a truly accessible, amateur sized telescope. (a MAG 26.9 galaxy with some unconfirmed approaching 28)

Congratulations Dr. Sasse for reaching towards the Edge of Everything.

OBJECT      = 'J1148+5251      '           / Target object name                            

TELESCOP    = 'ACP->GRAS-017 CDK 17 IR' / Telescope name                           

INSTRUME    = 'FLI-New '           / Detector instrument name                      

OBSERVER    = 'Christian Sasse'    / Observer name                                 

NOTES       = ' quasar       '                                                           

DATE-OBS    = '2011-02-03T23:37:06' / [ISO 8601] UTC date/time of exposure start