GLIP: A new concept in full Stokes Astronomical Polarimetry

Supervisors
Dr Éamonn Harvey
Prof Iain Steele

Optical polarimetry is a probe of physical and magnetic field geometries in many otherwise spatially unresolved astronomical sources. Polarization is now taking a leading role as a key diagnostic of physical conditions (magnetic field strength/order/geometry and relativistic plasma dynamics) in time variable sources such as blazars, active galactic nuclei, x-ray binaries and gamma ray bursts. In these high energy sources, polarization allows astronomers to probe the physical conditions at spatial scales that will never be accessible to direct imaging observations. However, the majority of large telescopes do not host polarimeters. There are several reasons for this. Traditionally polarimetry is seen as a “hard” technique, requiring specialist knowledge by the observer in data reduction. It is also seen as one that is expensive to implement, maintain and calibrate due to its complexity. In this project we will develop a new concept in astronomical polarimetry (Galway-Liverpool Imaging Polarimeter - “GLIP”)  that aims to overcome all these issues. This novel instrument, with an associated automated reduction pipeline, will demystify the classification potential of polarimetry for the transient astronomy community, rendering the techniques of circular and linear polarimetry as competitive alternatives to spectral classification of transients. The PhD student would be involved in either the instrument prototype build and verification testing or the appropriate software development. Either the hardware or software projects would include a science component, where the student will be encouraged to develop science use cases for the polarimeter and employ these during instrument on-sky testing.