Home > News and Activities > Professor Evelyn Johnston participates in a revolutionary study “Local Volume Mapper” at Las Campanas Observatory

Professor Evelyn Johnston participates in a revolutionary study “Local Volume Mapper” at Las Campanas Observatory


The academic from the Institute of Astrophysical Studies of the Diego Portales University directs the daily observations in an investigation that promises to help understand the processes of formation and evolution of nearby galaxies.

The mysteries of galaxy formation and the interactions between stars and stellar gas could be revealed thanks to a new research project involving astronomer Evelyn Johnston, a professor at the Institute of Astrophysical Studies at the Diego Portales University.

Professor Evelyn Johnston with her son in her arms.

The initiative is called Local Volume Mapper (LVM) and is linked to the international scientific cooperation Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), with the aim of mapping the interstellar gas emission of the Milky Way and the galaxies of the Local Group with spatial resolution without precedents. After having its first night of observing and training on July 17, it aims to collect an enormous amount of data over the next three and a half years, which would allow scientists to study in detail star formation and the physics of the interstellar medium. , identifying individual star-forming knots and filamentary structures, as well as the shock webs between them. This connection is critical to understanding the physics that govern star formation, the structure of the interstellar medium, the baryon cycle, and ultimately the evolution of galaxies.




Descripción de imagen: Fotografía al interior de un galpón de techo y muros blancos, se observan 4 cajas negras del tamaño de una mesa grande, ubicados una junto a la otra, frente a 4 pedestales que sostienen telescopios pequeños, y en conjunto son los instrumentos ópticos donde se recibe y se procesa la luz. En torno a estos instrumentos se aprecian otros aparatos sobre mesones blancos.
Installation with the teams of the Local Volume Mapper (LVM) project in Cerro Las Campanas, IV Region.

Professor Johnston currently directs the daily operations of the LVM at the Las Campanas Observatory, Atacama Region, from where it is possible to observe the Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds. Given the ambition of the research, it was necessary to install new telescopes and instruments in the place, where the UDP academic –also a principal investigator at the ERIS Millennium Nucleus, led by astronomer Paula Jofré, director of the UDP PhD in Astrophysics– was in charge of testing the equipment to ensure that it meets the sensitivity required for the scientific objectives, as well as training the people who will make the observations. In the latter, in addition, students of the PhD in Astrophysics UDP are already beginning to participate.

“LVM is the first application of this technique to the entire Milky Way, and it is the first step towards a spectroscopic map of the whole sky,” explained the professor in a note released by SDSS. He added that the work will allow us to observe “star-forming regions less than a light-year away, which will give us unprecedented details of these important structures.”

Descripción de imagen: Fotografía del mismo lugar de la imagen anterior, pero con el techo desplazado hacia atrás, dejando los instrumentos al aire libre durante una noche despejada. Todo está iluminado con luces rojas y tenues, y se observan a 4 personas operando los instrumentos.
LVM in operation, with the sliding roof moved to make observations.

SSDS is an international cooperative effort that has different sky “mapping” initiatives. Academics from the PhD in Astrophysics UDP participate in them: Jofré is part of the Milky Way Mapper, while astronomers Claudio Ricci and Matthew Temple work on the Black Hole Mapper.

You can learn more about the LVM project here: