University of Wisconsin-Madison Physical Sciences Lab

Email from Ron Reynolds Re: WHAM

Following is a reproduction, by permission, of an email received from Ron Reynolds, a principal investigator for the original WHAM project, regarding the status of WHAM in 2006. Links & minor edits were added.

Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2006 12:37:56 -0500 (CDT)
From: Ron Reynolds
To: Ken Kriesel
Subject: Re: wham telescope status

Hi Ken!

Your web site re WHAM [is] not much out of date at all, but here’s a recap and update if you would like to refresh it a bit.

WHAM is still going strong at Kitt Peak. As you already know, the H-alpha sky survey was completed in 2000 and published in 2003 (in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 149, pp. 405-422). This WHAM survey has provided the first map of the distribution and kinematics of the low density (0.1/cc), warm (10,000 K) interstellar ionized hydrogen that is spread throughout the disk and halo of our Galaxy. The survey covered 3/4 of the sky (i.e., north of declination -30 deg). Since then, WHAM was turned mostly toward the detection and mapping [of] other interstellar emission lines, particularly the trace ions of nitrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and helium, which have provided new information about the temperature and ionization conditions within the gas and how conditions vary with location in the Galaxy. This work has revealed important clues about the origin of the gas and the source of its heating.

WHAM has added significantly not only to our knowledge of interstellar matter and processes, but has also provided unique new insights into the strength of extra-galactic extreme ultraviolet radiation field, the motion and origin of interplanetary dust, the composition of the gaseous halos of comets, and the properties of the outer most layer of earth’s atmosphere (the hydrogen geocorona).

WHAM continues to be operated remotely by observers at a variety of locations, the most distant of which is Sydney, Australia, where Greg Madsen has the pleasure of observing the night sky with WHAM during his daytime. To date, WHAM observations have resulted in more than 60 published papers.

We are currently awaiting word from the National Science Foundation about the possibility of receiving funds to move WHAM from Kitt Peak to Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in a couple years. A location south of the equator would allow WHAM to complete the last unmapped 1/4 of the sky and to explore the ionized gas associated with the Milky Way’s large satellite galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds, which can only [be] seen from the southern hemisphere. Matt Haffner is planning to lead that effort.

We thank you and the rest of the PSL staff for helping make WHAM such a great success.