Eye on the sky project involving University of Leicester

Posted by ap507 at Oct 05, 2016 11:30 AM |
New advance in global initiative to build the world’s largest and most sensitive high-energy gamma-ray observatory

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 5 October 2016

The University of Leicester is part of a new project that will provide scientists with access to the world’s largest and most sensitive high-energy gamma-ray observatory.

CTA (http://www.cta-observatory.org) is a global initiative to build the world’s largest and most sensitive high-energy gamma-ray observatory. More than 1,000 scientists and engineers from 32 countries and more than 200 research institutes participate in the CTA project.

CTA will serve as an open observatory to a wide astrophysics community and provide a deep insight into the non-thermal, high-energy universe. The CTA observatory will detect high-energy radiation with unprecedented accuracy and approximately ten times the sensitivity of current instruments, providing novel insights into some of the most extreme and violent events in the universe

The University of Leicester designed and built the first prototype of a camera for the SSTs (small-sized telescopes) here in Leicester, which can detect the highest energy gamma-rays from astrophysical objects, and is currently developing the next camera with collaboration from UK and European partner institutes.

Dr Rhaana Starling, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Astronomers in the department plan to use the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) to study sites of high energy particle acceleration in the Universe, in shock fronts sent out by exploding stars and in jets of material emanating from just born black holes.

“The CTA is a large international project, due to start construction at its southern site in Chile in 2017-2018, and the project has now announced the plans to build a counterpart in the northern hemisphere on La Palma allowing whole-sky coverage.”

Duncan Ross, lead CTA engineer at Leicester, said: “The CTA project is a fantastic opportunity for the University of Leicester and its Space Research Centre to be involved in cutting edge science and engineering with a large group of international peers. Developing the camera has been an exciting challenge and seeing the first camera mounted and working as part of the first CTA SST to achieve “first light” at the Observatoire de Paris, France, was tremendously satisfying. I’m looking forward to long term involvement with this project; seeing the full 3km diameter array operating with multiple copies of the camera, will be a major achievement for science at Leicester and one of our largest engineering projects.”

In September the Council of the Cherenkov Telescope Array Observatory (CTAO) concluded negotiations with the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) to host CTA’s northern hemisphere array at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in La Palma, Spain.

To provide access to the whole sky, the CTA Observatory will have two sites, with 19 telescopes in the northern hemisphere and 99 in the southern hemisphere planned.

CTA’s northern hemisphere site will be located on the existing site of the IAC’s Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on the island of La Palma, the fifth largest island in the Canary Islands. At 2,200 m altitude and nestled on a plateau below the rim of an extinct volcanic crater, the site currently hosts the two Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov Telescopes (MAGIC) telescopes. This location offers excellent conditions for astronomical observations.

“This is a big step, which allows CTAO to start work on the ground,” said CTAO gGmbH Managing Director Ulrich Straumann.

Rafael Rebolo, Director of the IAC, was very positive about the future: “We are looking forward to a great partnership with CTA and expect exciting discoveries with these telescopes.”

The agreement allows the construction of the CTA northern array to proceed at the Roque de los Muchachos site and ensures access to the infrastructure and common services needed for the operation of the Observatory, including the digital connection of the CTA network with the rest of the Cherenkov telescope array world. In return, Spain will receive 10 per cent of the observation time at the northern site, with part of this transferable to the southern hemisphere. Beyond provision of the northern site, Spain plans to make major contributions to the construction of CTA.

“The full sky coverage and excellent conditions provided by the IAC site, together with the ESO site in Chile, are crucial for achieving CTAs ambitious science goals,” said CTA Spokesperson Werner Hofmann.

Construction of a Large-Sized Telescope prototype is currently underway on the La Palma site and can be watched live here: http://webcam.lst1.iac.es/stream2view.htm.

Negotiations with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) for the southern hemisphere site near ESO’s existing Paranal Observatory in Chile are expected to conclude before the end of 2016. If all goes as planned, construction will begin in 2017, with first telescopes on site in 2018.

You can access the full release here: at https://portal.cta-observatory.org/Pages/News.aspx

ENDS

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