East Bay

Cal State East Bay Students, Professor Part of Team Behind Revolutionary Telescope




Cal State East Bay is helping expand our view of the universe. A first-of-its-kind prototype gammaray telescope will change the way astrophysicists see the cosmos—allowing scientists to study the most extreme events in the universe. With the new technology, made possible through the collaboration of more than 100 scientists, astrophysicists have gained a unique perspective of objects in the universe millions of light years away. 

Dr. Amy Furniss, Cal State East Bay assistant professor of physics and gamma-ray astrophysicist, helped develop the prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope, contributing the secondary mirrors for the telescope. An East Bay computer science student (now alumnus) contributed to the analysis software. The instrument was completed and unveiled at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, in early 2019. 

“This represents the next generation of telescope that will lead gamma-ray astronomy, a field of astronomy that is only 50 years old, into the new era of multimessenger astronomy,” Dr. Furniss said.  “This telescope can see a much larger portion of the sky than previous instruments, and with far greater sensitivity, allowing us to look deeper into the cosmos to answer questions about how the universe behaves.” 

The telescope, which is said to be 20 times more powerful than current technology and 100 times faster than similar telescopes, will test a novel dual-mirror design to improve image quality. 

Cal State East Bay students who work within Furniss’ research group will have the opportunity to travel to the Whipple Observatory to help to commission the new instrument. They will participate in data collection, calibration, troubleshooting hardware and software and developing and testing the analysis software pipeline—all critical steps in the smooth transition to full data-taking for the prototype Schwarzschild-Couder’s testing phase. 

“Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, our students can use the data from the instrument to study extreme astrophysical sources within our universe, like gamma-ray emitting galaxies that have supermassive black holes at the centers of them with huge jets of relativistic particles emerging from the vicinity of the black hole,” she said. 

“Questions like ‘How has the universe changed since it was born?’ and ‘What is dark matter?’ and ‘What is the most energetic phenomenon in the universe?’ and ‘How do black holes work?’ are all high-priority questions, and this telescope is poised to help scientists find the answers."​