ULTRACAM operations

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


ULTRACAM is a digital camera capable of taking (and storing) up to 500 red, green and blue images every second. The instrument was built in just under 3 years by a consortium from the Universities of Sheffield, Warwick and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, using a £300,000 grant awarded by STFC. ULTRACAM saw 'first light' in May 2002 on the 4.2-m William Herschel Telescope (WHT) on La Palma, and first light on the 8.2-m Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile in May 2005. To date, ULTRACAM has been awarded a total of 147 nights of time on these telescopes to study white dwarfs, brown dwarfs, pulsars, black-hole/neutron-star X-ray binaries, gamma-ray bursts, cataclysmic variables, eclipsing binary stars, extrasolar planets, flare stars, ultra-compact binaries, active galactic nuclei, asteroseismology and occultations by Solar System objects (Titan, Pluto, the moons of Uranus and Kuiper Belt Objects). This grant proposal requests funding for the proper maintenance and operation of ULTRACAM, as well as a modest programme of minor upgrades, thereby ensuring that ULTRACAM maintains its status as the world's premier instrument for high-speed optical astrophysics. As well as maximising the return on STFC's original investment, this money will also allow us to continue to offer ULTRACAM to others in the astronomical community who wish to use it.


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Wild J (2020) Spectroscopic and photometric periods of six ultracompact accreting binaries in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Wang L (2019) The Pre-He White Dwarf in the Post-mass Transfer Binary EL CVn in The Astronomical Journal

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Vuckovic M (2010) Multicolour photometry of EO Ceti (PB 8783) in Astrophysics and Space Science

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Unda-Sanzana E (2009) The not-so-extreme white dwarf of the CV GD 552 in Journal of Physics: Conference Series

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Tulloch S (2011) On the use of electron-multiplying CCDs for astronomical spectroscopy Astronomical spectroscopy with EMCCDs in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Schwarz R (2009) Hunting high and low: XMM monitoring of the eclipsing polar HU Aquarii in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Schaffenroth V (2021) A quantitative in-depth analysis of the prototype sdB+BD system SDSS J08205+0008 revisited in the Gaia era in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Description We have used this grant to operate ULTRACAM on the 3.5m New Technology Telescope and the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope. ULTRACAM is a high-speed astronomical camera which has helped increase our understanding of the dead remnants of stars: white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.
Exploitation Route Our findings provide the observational underpinning of theories of the structure and evolution of binary stars containing white dwarf, neutron stars and black holes.
Sectors Education

URL http://www.vikdhillon.staff.shef.ac.uk/ultracam/
Description Advanced Grant
Amount € 3,500,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2014 
End 12/2018