Research in Astronomical Instrumentation

UCSC is the home of one of the preeminent astrophysical instrumentation laboratories: the UCO/Lick Observatory Technical Facilities, which includes an engineering department, an electronics lab, an optical lab, an instrument lab, and an optical coatings lab. Most of the instruments for Lick are built here, as are some of the Keck instruments, including the recently commissioned Deep Imaging Multi-Object Spectrograph (DEIMOS), now being used for the DEEP project. Current projects include the development of the Automated Planet Finder (APF) telescope, which will be a fully automated 2.4-m telescope on Mt. Hamilton with a high resolution spectrograph that will observe nearby stars every night for months. The APF, conceived and designed by Steve Vogt, can measure the motion of distant stars (down to 1 meter per second) caused by small orbiting planets.

Extremely Large Telescopes

More than ten years after first light, the two 10-m Keck Telescopes remain the largest optical telescopes in the world, built on the novel design of UCSC Professor Jerry Nelson (then at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab). In recent years, other telescopes have joined Keck in the ten-meter class, and improved detectors and adaptive optics have lengthened Keck's reach.

Now, planning has begun for the next big step: the leap to a thirty meter class telescope, with an order of magnitude jump in light gathering ability, capable of studying the formation of the earliest galaxies at extreme distances as well as planetary systems forming in our own Milky Way galaxy.

CeltIn January 2004, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded $17.5 million each to UC and Caltech for a collaboration intended to produce designs for a thirty meter telescope. Together with AURA in the US and ACURA in Canada, these institutions have established a Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project, with Project Scientist Jerry Nelson and a steering committee including representatives from UC campuses, Caltech, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and DAO/HIA in Canada. Numerous researchers from all of these institutions and more are now designing the big telescope, its dome and instrumentation, as well as implementing site surveys, detailed cost estimates, and science plans.

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Thirty-Meter Telescope focuses on two candidate sites

Doug Lin has a featured article in the May 2008 Scientific American entitled "The Chaotic Genesis of Planets." Read more...