MIAMI — Astronomers at Florida International University were recently able to view and photograph a giant elliptical galaxy colliding with a spiral galaxy – all thanks to a refurbished automated telescope in Chile.

The dramatic photo of the collision was taken from FIU on the first full night in which astronomers were able to view images through the telescope.

Located at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory on a remote peak in the Andes Mountains, the telescope allows members of the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy, or SARA, a consortium of 10 universities that includes FIU, to explore parts of the sky that are not visible from telescopes in the United States.

Since 1993, the consortium has operated SARA-North, a telescope located at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. The Chile telescope will be known as the SARA-South.

“We now have the ability to study objects that cannot be seen from Northern hemisphere observatories, including the galactic center,” said James Webb, director of SARA-North and physics professor at FIU, who helped take the photograph along with graduate student Gopal Bhatta and FIU student Archit Khanuja.

“The new telescope opens up many additional avenues of research than we had before by using the telescopes to work together. This is a very exciting time … at FIU,” he said. In addition to FIU, the SARA consortium includes Florida Institute of Technology, East Tennessee State University, Valdosta State University, Clemson University, Ball State University, Agnes Scott College, the University of Alabama, Valparaiso University and Butler University.

The consortium operates both telescopes under agreement with the National Science Foundation.


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