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Planetary Nebulae (PNe) are excellent probes of a distant galaxy's rotational dynamics. Through their strong [O III] emission line at 5007Å rest wavelength they can be easily detected and their radial velocity determined, allowing the stellar kinematics in the (otherwise inaccessible) outer regions of elliptical galaxies to be studied. In addition, it is now widely accepted that their luminosity in the [O III] line (for an ensemble of PNe this is called the PNLF - Planetary Nebula Luminosity Function) has a fairly sharp bright-end cutoff, which means that they can be used as `standard candles' in determining distances. The PNS project aims to build a dedicated Planetary Nebula Spectrograph in order to push this technique to its limit. We have proven that two counter-dispersed images contain the information needed to obtain distances and dynamics in a single observation - to our knowledge the only way of doing so!

Entry photo courtesy Richard A. Hijmering.

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last modified, 29 July 2015