Camera probes the cosmos

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DISCOVERIES in the furthest reaches of the solar system are being made thanks to a device created by Sheffield University experts to spot high- speed phenomena in outer space.

The ULTRACAM is an ultra-fast triple beam three-colour camera which is perfect for high-speed experiments in astrophysics.

It has been used by hundreds of scientists around the world – including those investigating for the first time the dwarf planet Makemake.

The sophisticated camera takes many pictures a second in three colours and allows scientists to determine how large planets are by measuring how long it takes them to pass in front of a star.

Sheffield University experts were at observatories in Chile and the Canaries where they watched as the dwarf planet blocked the light of a distant star for about one minute.

Makemake was found to be two thirds the size of Pluto, with a different type of atmosphere.

ULTRACAM was built by Professor Vik Dhillon of Sheffield University with Professor Tom Marsh of Warwick University.