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  • Astronomical Instrumentation



    Prof Iain Steele I.A.Steele Observatory Director; group leader
    Dr Chris Copperwheat C.M.Copperwheat Astronomer in Charge
    Dr Robert Smith R.J.Smith Project Scientist
    Mr Stuart Bates S.D.Bates Engineering Manager; opto-mechanical design
    Prof Dave Carter D.Carter WEAVE deputy PI

    Postdocs, fellows and technical staff
    Dr Rob Barnsley R.M.Barnsley FRODOSpec, IO:I
    Dr Helen Jermak H.E.Jermak Instrument Scientist; RINGO3
    Dr Jon Marchant J.Marchant Data Scientist
    Mr Chris Mottram C.Mottram Software engineer; instrument control and readout

    Graduate students (add to emails)
    Mr Andrzej Piascik A.S.Piascik@2013. SPRAT

    PhD Positions

    We offer Ph.D. projects to students with an interest in instrument development and testing, as well as observational astronomy. We encourage potential applicants to contact Prof. Iain Steele.

    Recent Projects

    FRODOSpec and SPRAT data pipelines

    As part of his Ph.D. project, Rob Barnsley developed a fully automated data reduction pipeline for the FRODOSpec integral field spectrometer. He has recently adapted this software for use with the SPRAT long-slit spectrometer. The pipeline (described here) carries out a complete processing of both data-sets, including fibre identification and tracing (for FRODOSpec), dark subtraction and flat-fielding, wavelength and throughput calibration, and identification of object and sky regions to provide a final extracted and fully calibrated spectrum ready for science use within 15 minutes of data acquisition.

    SkyCam suite of wide-field imagers

    SkyCam is a project aimed at providing simultaneous wide-field imaging in parallel with normal LT data taking. Three high-quality CCD cameras with fields-of-view of 180o, 9o and 1o and limiting magnitudes of 6, 14 and 18 respectively take exposes every minute of every night the telescope is operating. Neil Mawson, another recent Ph.D. student at ARI, has developed a data reduction pipeline to calibrate these frames and ingest the resulting object catalogues into a massive SQL database. The database (which has many billions of data points) can then be queried to find new variable and transient objects, or to derive long term light curves of objects that are already known.

    RINGO3 polarimetry

    The STFC-funded RINGO3 project builds on the success of the original RINGO and RINGO2 instruments in the field of Gamma Ray Burst polarimetry. Commissioned in 2013, RINGO3 provides multi-colour polarization light curves of the early optical emission from GRBs by using specially developed dichroic mirrors and three electron multiplying CCD cameras for simultaneous imaging. Recent ARI graduate Doug Arnold has been leading the instrument design and build, and has developed a data reduction pipeline for the instrument which is now in routine use at the telescope.

    Optical and near-IR imaging with IO:O and IO:I

    Our optical imager IO:O, developed by members of the ARI instrumentation group, is very much the work-horse instrument on the LT. In early 2015, users of the telescope have seen the addition of its near-infrared counterpart, IO:I. Together these two instruments allow for the near-simultaneous imaging, photometry and monitoring of variables, transients and targets of opportunity in the optical and near-IR. A data reduction pipeline is in place and - as with all LT instruments - fully processed images are available to users within minutes of acquisition.

    SPRAT and the classification of faint transients

    To aid with the identification of faint transients, particularly novae and supernovae, a new high-throughput low-resolution optical spectrometer SPRAT has recently been installed on the LT. Ph.D. student Andrzej Piascik was central to the characterisation of this instrument, and is now using it to classify transients discovered by the GAIA space telescope, as outlined in this recent LT news item.

    WEAVE, a new super-efficient spectrometer for the WHT

    WEAVE is a wide field multi-object spectrograph for the William Herschel Telescope which will employ up to 1000 fibres, allowing astronomers to take spectra of many hundreds of objects simultaneously. The instrument is now fully funded and is moving forward. The ARI instrumentation group has been tasked with providing two liquid-nitrogen-cooled cryostats, each containing a pair of 6000x6000 pixel CCDs. The team will also provide readout and controller software.