Mexican wins award for space image

Joel Sánchez Bermúdez won the award for the reconstruction of the most beautiful and accurate astronomical image

Mexican wins award for most beautiful astronomical image
A satellite dish at the European Austral Observatory in Chile, with which Joel Sánchez Bermúdez's image was generated - Photo: C. Pontoni/EFE
English 04/07/2018 14:43 Notimex Mexico City Actualizada 13:56

The Mexican researcher of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), Joel Sánchez Bermúdez, won the award for the reconstruction of the most beautiful and accurate astronomical image.

The image was captured by him and his team, formed by the Spaniards Antxón Alberdi and Rainer Schödel; said award was granted at the Society of Engineers’ Photo-Optical Instrumentation Congress (SPIE).

The aim of the contest of interferometric images is to test the software and the methodological capabilities for the reconstruction of images in the infrared spectrum.

The reconstruction of this type of images is fundamental in modern astronomy to understand the phenomena that occurs every day in the universe.

The contest consists of expert teams and participants from around the world receiving a series of data obtained from simulations made by the organizers according to the parameters of the instruments and telescopes. Thereon, the teams process the interferometric data and create an image.

The image generated by the Mexican scientist recreates a central star with a disk of elongated dust and an asymmetric brightness, with a planet in formation. This type of young star is common in the universe and it is thought that the Sun and solar system had a similar formation process.


"This contest serves as a reference to establish the limits and scope of the technology that exists in the field of infrared interferometry", clarified Joel Sánchez Bermúdez in an interview for the news agency of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT).

He added that, in addition to the image, the physical parameters of the observed object have to be delivered upfront, so the participation of experts from the universities of Cambridge, Lyon, and Leuven was required.

The contest has been held biennially for 16 years and, in previous editions, teams and researchers have reconstructed images of stars, star clusters, discs around stars, as well as planets out of the interferometric data.

The astronomical interferometry is an observational technique that has allowed astronomers to observe stars and galaxies in as much detail as possible. This technique allows for two or more telescopes to be combined at the same time to observe an astronomical object.

"For an interferometer like the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, located in the Atacama desert in Chile, the level of detail achieved is equivalent to seeing a five-peso coin on the surface of the Moon," the researcher explained.

This is the second time that Joel Sánchez Bermúdez wins this contest, which has placed him as one of the most renowned astronomy reconstructionists worldwide for the quality and precision of his work.

The first time was in 2014, when he was still a PhD student.

In this edition of the contest, specialists from all over the world had to reconstruct a star in formation with a disk of dust and a planet out of the interferometric data.

The specialist’s line of research revolves around the analysis of interferometric data for the study of stars of high masses, which are the stars that produce virtually all the ingredients of which the universe is made, so they acquire a particular relevance to study all the astronomical phenomena.

"The study of this type of stars with interferometry is important to understand their evolution and effect on the chemical evolution of galaxies," he said.