A Programme of Astronomical Instrumentation and High-Energy Astrophysics at Durham 2013-2015

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Physics


We propose to consolidate our successful rolling programme of research and development in astronomical instrumentation for ground- and space-based telescopes with observational and theoretical work in high-energy astrophysics. Over the period 2013-2015 we will make high-fidelity laboratory experiments to assess the applicability of adaptive optics correction down to visible wavelengths, and exploit data from vertical turbulence profiling equipment to study the effects of low-altitude turbulence on telescope performance. We will also continue our joint programme with ESO to develop the next generation of real-time control systems for future adaptive optics systems, and undertake a development programme using our in-house manufacturing capability to deliver high-precision large-diameter diamond-machined optics for next-generation instruments. We will explore the application of photonics technologies to improving the versatility and efficiency of future astronomical spectrographs using fibre switches and image-stabilising optics. Our rolled up high energy astrophysics programme will use data from new hard X-ray satellites to study extreme accretion flows around compact objects, and will develop an outreach programme for the next-generation high energy gamma ray facility, the Cherenkov Telescope Array.

Planned Impact

The research will benefit UK astronomers by providing them with new technologies for implementing advanced modes of astronomical adaptive optics and improving the efficiency of optical/infrared spectroscopy. Astronomers worldwide will benefit from the synergy with technology developments at other observatories. Industry will benefit from cutting-edge developments of their systems (particularly real-time computing) and in supplying COTS items to the programme. The field of high-energy astrophysics will be moved forward by access to new data from hard X-ray telescopes, and by an effective outreach programme for CTA which helps secure future UK involvement.


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Acharya B (2013) Introducing the CTA concept in Astroparticle Physics

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Algorri JF (2013) Modal liquid crystal array of optical elements. in Optics express

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Allington-Smith J (2013) End effects in optical fibres in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Alston W (2014) X-ray time delays in the narrow line Seyfert 1 galaxy PG 1244+026 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Axelsson M (2013) Fast variability as a probe of the smallest regions around accreting black holes in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Barr D (2015) Reducing adaptive optics latency using Xeon Phi many-core processors in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Basden A (2014) Real-time correlation reference update for astronomical adaptive optics in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Description This bridging award enabled a continued programme of underpinning research in 4 key areas of (i) adaptive optics, (ii) atmospheric characterisation, (iii) real-time control systems, (iv) 3D imaging and spectroscopy. One area research programme on freeform optics manufacture was not supported. Key findings are listed in the publications (especially SPIE) associated with this grant.
Exploitation Route The outcomes of this award fed directly into a continuing programme of technology development funded as part of our first Consolidated Grant.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine