Shoot an X-shooterPosted: June 21, 2009
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Many things and people have cocktails named in their honour. Bombers, comic book characters and even a dodgy U.S. president. But none as far as I know have been named after an astronomical instrument, until now….
Recently on Paranal a new spectrograph was commissioned for one of the elements of the Very Large Telescope. Spectrographs (as the name suggests) split the light from astronomical objects into spectra. These can be used examine what elements are present in the object, what physical processes are going on in or on it and also to measure things like the gravity, temperature or magnetic field strength of the objects. Most spectrographs can only take spectra in one small colour range at a time. This means that if you want information about an object across a range of wavelengths (say from visible light to the infrared) then you need to make several observations often using several different instruments separated by days, months or even years. If the object you are studying varies with time this could be a bit of a problem. This is where the new X-shooter
instrument built in the Netherlands, Italy, France and Denmark comes in. It is actually three spectrographs combined, an ultraviolet-blue arm, an arm covering visible light and a near-infrared arm. This means astronomers studying a fast fading Gamma-Ray burst or a rapidly varying interacting binary star system can now get information about them over a wide spectral range at the same time.
Now to the important bit. As part of the X-shooter instrument was built in Nijmegen, a small drinks reception was planned to celebrate the instrument’s commissioning. It was suggested that as the instrument had shooter in its name, it deserved a shooter named in its honour. Obviously the three component spectrographs indicated that a cocktail of liquids of three different colours would be required. Unfortunately everyone was too busy with trivial things like data reduction and writing papers to design the cocktail, so the drinks came and went with no cocktail and much raw herring (this is the Netherlands). However my colleague Andreas (who I shall now christen mix-master) went away, plotted, experimented and at a recent party he set about making his X-shooters. Luckily the astronomers here like cocktails (apparently this is quite common) and they were willing to put Andreas’ creation to the test.
The result was described as being “sweet” and “refreshing”.
If you want to make your own X-shooter (the drink, not the spectrograph, orbiting frog has that covered) you will need,
1 part blue Curacao
1 part white rum
1 part orange syrup
1 part blackcurrant syrup
Mix the rum and orange syrup in the shot glass to make the visual component, then pour in the blackcurrant syrup (the near IR component). The denser blackcurrant should sink to the bottom of the glass. All that is left is to pour the blue Curacao in over a spoon to add the UV-blue component.
So anyone willing to try an X-shooter or to suggest their own astronomy themed cocktails? Suggestions please….