IoA Instrumentation Group

Our 3 main projects currently are


Project 1640

We are collaborating with Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) to design a new Integral Field Spectrograph (IFS) for Exoplanetary Science. The AMNH group have already built the world's first diffraction limited coronograph, which removes up to 99.9% of the light from the central star. The use of the IFS should increase the likelihood of detecting faint exoplanets around such nearby stars.

The Project 1640 spectrograph and coronograph are currently (July 2008) being commissioned on the 5 metre Hale Telescope on Mount Palomar, California


The Dark Age ‘z’ (redshift) Lyman-alpha Explorer, a unique, narrow band differential imaging instrument was constructed at the IoA. It was designed to operate at the Nasmyth visitor focus of one of the 8.2 metre telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.

In October 2006 DAZLE was successfully commissioned at the VLT and was used to search for evidence of star formation at very early epochs - the building blocks of galaxies in the early universe, targeting one specific redshift window at z=7.7. In April 2007, we were again looking for star formation at a redshift of 7.7. This time we were looking at fields centred on galaxy clusters, using these as a gravitational lens.

Lucky Imaging

In the absence of the Earth's atmosphere, a telescope will produce sharp images of stars. Our atmosphere degrades this image - small variations in density on millisecond timescales causes the starlight to be deflected, and the images becomes a bit fuzzy. By using a high-speed camera, and choosing those images least affected by the atmosphere and combining them, we can form a higher resolution image than just adding all the images together.

Who are we - the Instrumentation group members   - Use this link to find out who we are and how to contact us.

Our other projects and projects with which we are connected:

  • CIRPASS The Cambridge IR PAnoramic Survey Spectrograph. CIRPASS is a large fibre-fed infrared spectrograph. We successfully used this as a visitor instrument at several leading observatories.  First light was in early Aug 2002 when we undertook an integral field (IFU) Science Demonstration run on Gemini South. This was the first NIR IFU to be used on an 8-m class telescope. In early Oct 2002 we had a very successful multi-object (MOS) run on the AAT, followed by further runs on Gemini South (IFU), the AAT (MOS), and WHT (MOS) through 2003/4. (contact: irp or dlk)  

    Gemini run highlights
    AAT MOS highlights

    CIRPASS at Gemini South Diary
    Gemini South Pictures
    Anglo-Australian Telescope Pictures
    La Palma Pictures

    Project 1640, DAZLE and CIRPASS make use of the Hawaii-II infra-red focal plane arrays manufactured by Teledyne Scientific and Imaging, LLC (formerly Rockwell Science Center)

  • OPTICON - Smart focal planes and Electron multiplying CCDs (contact: irp or cdm)
  • CIRSI  - Cambridge IR Survey Instrument. This extremely wide field camera was first used on the 2.5m INT in Dec 1997 and has been used on many observing runs since including runs on the 2.5m Du Pont Telescope and the 4.2m WHT. (contact:cdm)
  • COHSI  - Cambridge OH Suppression Instrument. COHSI was used on UKIRT (3.8m) in March and Nov 1998. It has now been recycled to construct CIRPASS.
  • AUSTRALIS - A design study for a NIR fibre system for the VLT. (contact:irp)
  • COAST - the Cambridge Optical Aperure Synthesis Telescope (contact:jeb)
  • EMIR - a NIR multi slit spectrograph for the 10m Spanish Telescope
  • FMOS - Fibre Multi-Object Spectrograph for SUBARU
  • GIRMOS - a design study for a NIR multi slit spectrograph for Gemini
  • GOHSS - the Galileo OH Suppression Spectrograph
  • IFMOS - a design study for a NIR integral field spectrograph for the NGST (now James Webb Space Telescope)
  • LDSS-2 - The Low Dispersion Survey Spectrograph
  • MROI - The Magdelena Ridge Observatory Interferometer
  • SPIRAL Spectrograph
  • UFTI - The UKIRT Fast Track Imager
  • Instrumentation links                                                                                                                          .

    URL - Revised: 8 July 2008 17:04:00 by David King

    We are part of the Institute of Astronomy , which is part of the University of Cambridge