The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) observatory has been transferred to the ownership of the University of Hawaii (UH) and is now being managed by UH. We have established partnerships with several organizations to utilize the UKIRT for science projects and to support its operation. Our main partners are the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO), the East Asian Observatory (EAO), and the UKIRT microlensing team (JPL/IPAC/OSU/Vanderbilt). The USNO is working on deep northern hemisphere surveys in the H and K bands and the UKIRT microlensing team is running a monitoring campaign of the Galactic bulge. EAO, UH, and USNO have individual P.I. research programs. Most of the observations are using the Wide Field Camera (WFCAM), but the older suite of cassegrain instruments are still fully operational. Data processing and archiving continue to be done CASU and WSA in the UK. We are working on a concept to upgrade the WFCAM with new larger infrared detector arrays for substantially improved survey efficiency.
MOONS is a new Multi-Object Optical and Near-infrared Spectrograph selected by ESO as a third generation
instrument for the Very Large Telescope (VLT). The grasp of the large collecting area offered by the VLT (8.2m
diameter), combined with the large multiplex and wavelength coverage (optical to near-IR: 0.8μm - 1.8μm) of MOONS
will provide the European astronomical community with a powerful, unique instrument able to pioneer a wide range of
Galactic, Extragalactic and Cosmological studies and provide crucial follow-up for major facilities such as Gaia,
VISTA, Euclid and LSST. MOONS has the observational power needed to unveil galaxy formation and evolution over
the entire history of the Universe, from stars in our Milky Way, through the redshift desert, and up to the epoch of very
first galaxies and re-ionization of the Universe at redshift z>8-9, just few million years after the Big Bang. On a
timescale of 5 years of observations, MOONS will provide high quality spectra for >3M stars in our Galaxy and the
local group, and for 1-2M galaxies at z>1 (SDSS-like survey), promising to revolutionise our understanding of the
The baseline design consists of ~1000 fibers deployable over a field of view of ~500 square arcmin, the largest patrol
field offered by the Nasmyth focus at the VLT. The total wavelength coverage is 0.8μm-1.8μm and two resolution
modes: medium resolution and high resolution. In the medium resolution mode (R~4,000-6,000) the entire wavelength
range 0.8μm-1.8μm is observed simultaneously, while the high resolution mode covers simultaneously three selected
spectral regions: one around the CaII triplet (at R~8,000) to measure radial velocities, and two regions at R~20,000 one
in the J-band and one in the H-band, for detailed measurements of chemical abundances.
MOONS is a new conceptual design for a Multi-Object Optical and Near-infrared Spectrograph for the Very Large
Telescope (VLT), selected by ESO for a Phase A study. The baseline design consists of ~1000 fibers deployable over a
field of view of ~500 square arcmin, the largest patrol field offered by the Nasmyth focus at the VLT. The total
wavelength coverage is 0.8μm-1.8μm and two resolution modes: medium resolution and high resolution. In the medium
resolution mode (R~4,000-6,000) the entire wavelength range 0.8μm-1.8μm is observed simultaneously, while the high
resolution mode covers simultaneously three selected spectral regions: one around the CaII triplet (at R~8,000) to
measure radial velocities, and two regions at R~20,000 one in the J-band and one in the H-band, for detailed
measurements of chemical abundances.
The grasp of the 8.2m Very Large Telescope (VLT) combined with the large multiplex and wavelength coverage of
MOONS – extending into the near-IR – will provide the observational power necessary to study galaxy formation and
evolution over the entire history of the Universe, from our Milky Way, through the redshift desert and up to the epoch
of re-ionization at z<8-9. At the same time, the high spectral resolution mode will allow astronomers to study chemical
abundances of stars in our Galaxy, in particular in the highly obscured regions of the Bulge, and provide the necessary
follow-up of the Gaia mission. Such characteristics and versatility make MOONS the long-awaited workhorse near-IR
MOS for the VLT, which will perfectly complement optical spectroscopy performed by FLAMES and VIMOS.
The AstroGrid (http://www.astrogrid.org) project is developing a
virtual observatory capability to support efficient and effective
exploitation of key astronomical data sets of importance to the UK
community. It's initial focus is providing the necessary data-grid
infrastructure and data-mining tools to support data generated by
projects such as WFCAM, VISTA, e-MERLIN, SOHO and Cluster. AstroGrid
is a partnership formed by UK archive centres and astronomical
computer scientists. Key capabilities of AstroGrid enable
multi-disciplinary astronomy, making use of data streams from
frontline astronomical instrumentation. This paper presents the
development and deployment plans of AstroGrid, describing the products
and capabilities already released through the fifth project iteration
release. Use of these in early adopter science programmes is noted.
AstroGrid is a strongly science driven project that aims to deploy
relevant aspects of Grid and Data-Grid technologies. These are
discussed here, with an in-depth treatment of specific AstroGrid
technological developments to support e.g. collaborative workspaces in
the form of MySpace, being discussed elsewhere in this conference.
Finally, AstroGrid's close involvement in broader European
initiatives, the Astrophysical Virtual Observatory (AVO) and the
International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) is highlighted.
VISTA Data Flow System (VDFS) survey data products are expected to reach of order one petabyte in volume. Fast and flexible user access to these data is pivotal for efficient science exploitation. In this paper, we describe the provision for survey products archive access and curation which is the final link in the data flow system from telescope to user. Science archive development at the Wide Field Astronomy Unit of the Institute for Astronomy within the University of Edinburgh is taking a phased approach. The first phase VDFS science archive is being implemented for WFCAM, a wide-field infrared imager that has similar output to, but at a lower data rate than the VISTA camera. We describe the WFCAM Science Archive, emphasising the design approach that is intended to lead to a scalable archive system that can handle the huge volume of VISTA data.
The International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA: http://www.ivoa.net) represents 14 international projects working in coordination to realize the essential technologies and interoperability standards necessary to create a new research infrastructure for 21st century astronomy. This international Virtual Observatory will allow astronomers to interrogate multiple data centres in a seamless and transparent way, will provide new powerful analysis and visualisation tools within that system, and will give data centres a standard framework for publishing and delivering services using their data. The first step for the IVOA projects is to develop the standardised framework that will allow such creative diversity. Since its inception in June 2002, the IVOA has already fostered the creation of a new international and widely accepted, astronomical data format (VOTable) and has set up technical working groups devoted to defining essential standards for service registries, content description, data access, data models and query languages following developments in the grid community. These new standards and technologies are being used to build science prototypes, demonstrations, and applications, many of which have been shown in international meetings in the past two years. This paper reviews the current status of IVOA projects, the priority areas for technical development, the science prototypes and planned developments.
Data from the two IR survey cameras WFCAM (at UKIRT in the northern hemisphere) and VISTA (at ESO in the southern hemisphere) can arrive at rates approaching 1.4 TB/night for of order 10 years. Handling the data rates on a nightly basis, and the volumes of survey data accumulated over time each present new challenges. The approach adopted by the UK's VISTA Data Flow System (for WFCAM & VISTA data) is outlined, emphasizing how the design will meet the end-to-end requirements of the system, from on-site monitoring of the quality of the data acquired, removal of instrumental artefacts, astrometric and photometric calibration, to accessibility of curated and user-specified data products in the context of the Virtual Observatory. Accompanying papers by Irwin et al and Hambly et al detail the design of the pipeline and science archive aspects of the project.
The UKIRT Wide Field Camera (WFCAM) is an IR mosaic camera that represents an enormous leap in deep IR survey capability. It will be used as both an open time facility, and to perform a public IR Deep Sky Survey (the UKIDSS project), starting in early 2004. Here we present current plans for the data archive system, which will be provided as a standard service for all UK WFCAM data whether private or public survey data. The data rate is an order of magnitude larger than any previous survey experiment. WFCAM is therefore a crucial stepping stone between current day surveys such as SuperCOSMOS, APM and SDSS, and future facilities such as VISTA and the LSST. Pipeline processing presents a technical challenge, but the strongest challenges come in operation and curation of such a pipeline and of the rapidly accumulating database. For the public archive, there is little technical challenge in simply storing the data, and the real challenge comes in the rapidly increasing expectations of the user community for the kind of on-line services available with the archive. We describe three levels of archive service and the challenges they present, and discuss the hardware and software solutions we are likely to deploy.
AstroGrid is the UK's contribution to the world-wide drive towards a Virtual Observatory (VO). I describe the project, its relation to other VO projects and other e-Science projects, and its current status. I then examine the concepts and science drivers behind the Virtual Observatory and the Grid, and the technical challenges which we face. The conception of the VO we arrive at is not one of a software monolith, but rather one of a framework which enables
data centres to provide competing and co-operating data services, and which enables software providers to offer a variety of compatible analysis and visualisation tools and user interfaces. The first priority of the VO projects worldwide is to provide the infrastructure which will enable such creative diversity. AstroGrid is however also a consortium of data centres, which will pool resources within this framework, and we expect to develop an early working implemementation of immediate use to astronomers.
The Astrophysical Virtual Observatory Project (AVO: http://www.eso.org/projects/avo/) will conduct a research and demonstration program on the scientific requirements and technologies necessary to build a VO for European astronomy. The AVO has been jointly funded by the European Commission and six European organizations for a three year Phase-A work program valued at 5 million Euro. The Phase A program will focus its work in three areas -- science requirements, archive interoperability and GIRD/database technologies. The AVO project, the US NVO and UK ASTROGRID projects have been working closely together over the past nine months to reach consensus on essential technical directions and standards that will facilitate the possibility of an International Virtual Observatory. An International Virtual Observatory Alliance was formed in June 2002 among all currently funded and proposed VO projects. The IVOA has adopted a roadmap for IVO developments over the next three years that will feature coordinated demonstrations of VO capabilities on specific science programs, and international agreements on key interoperability standards and tools.
We describe the design of Lobster-ISS, an X-ray imaging all-sky monitor (ASM) to be flown as an attached payload on the International Space Station. Lobster-ISS is the subject of an ESA Phase-A study which will begin in December 2001. With an instantaneous field of view 162 x 22.5 degrees, Lobster-ISS will map almost the complete sky every 90 minute ISS orbit, generating a confusion-limited catalogue of ~250,000 sources every 2 months. Lobster-ISS will use focusing microchannel plate optics and imaging gas proportional micro-well detectors; work is currently underway to improve the MCP optics and to develop proportional counter windows with enhanced transmission and negligible rates of gas leakage, thus improving instrument throughput and reducing mass. Lobster-ISS provides an order of magnitude improvement in the sensitivity of X-ray ASMs, and will, for the first time, provide continuous monitoring of the sky in the soft X-ray region (0.1-3.5 keV). Lobster-ISS provides long term monitoring of all classes of variable X-ray source, and an essential alert facility, with rapid detection of transient X-ray sources such as Gamma-Ray Burst afterglows being relayed to contemporary pointed X-ray observatories. The mission, with a nominal lifetime of 3 years, is scheduled for launch on the Shuttle c.2009.
The current performance of the high average power CHIRP II excimer laser is described. A power of 430 W at 1100 pps has been achieved on the XeCl excimer. Particular reference is made to the undesirable high pulse repetition frequency (PRF) effects observed in the testbed CHIRP I laser, and successfully avoided in CHIRP II.