Auckland amateur astronomer makes waves around world

  • 28/11/2011

By Jenny Suo

An Auckland man is being hailed by astronomers across the globe as the first amateur to capture an image of a forming solar system.

Rolf Olsen managed to take the picture using a modified web camera attached to a small telescope in his West Auckland back yard.

“I thought it was pretty special, I’ve been fascinated by this star for many years,” says Mr Olsen. “When I was a little boy I had an astronomy book and one of the pictures was the first picture of this star, taken by a huge telescope.”

Mr Olsen's telescope is not huge. In fact, it is actually quite small.

But he was able to capture a solar system around the star Beta Pictoris, which is more than 60 light years away.

“I have taken the camera out of its original casing and put it in a special box so I can mount it on the telescope, and then I have this cable where I can control the exposure time.”

The result is an image of the young system thought to only be about 12 million years old.

“This is similar to what our solar system looked like billions of years ago, where it was a disk of material orbiting the star. This disk of orbiting material condenses into the planets.”

The star itself is easy to capture but the hard part is getting rid of the glare so one can make out the solar system forming around it.

Mr Olsen was able to reveal it by taking a picture of a second star and subtracting the light in the image from the original one.

His feat is being applauded by expert astronomers here and around the world.

Stardrome astronomer Grant Christie says “good for him”.

“He’s just seen stuff in publications. The stars there, it’s over his head, and it is that natural curiosity that drives amateur astronomers.”

And for this curious astronomer who is already saving for a larger telescope, the sky is the limit.

3 News

source: newshub archive