ARC researchers have access to a wide range of telescopes, wide-field surveys, laboratories, data sets, and computing resources:
Kelvin-2 – Kelvin-2 is Northern Ireland’s high-performance computing (HPC) Centre. It is jointly managed by Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University. ARC researchers use this facility for our heavy computing and data simulation needs.
ALMA – The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array is an interferometer consisting of 66 antennas situated at an altitude of 5000m on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. We use ALMA to study star and planet formation through observation of the gas and dust in protoplanetary disks, looking for the gaps that forming planets carve out of the disk material. We also study star death in ATOMIUM, an ALMA Large Program, investigating the inner circumstellar envelopes of late-type stars to understand the process by which silicate dust particles form and the mechanism by which these spherical stars give rise to the wide range of morphologies seen in planetary nebulae.
ATLAS – The Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) is comprised of twin 0.5m Wright Schmidt telescopes that can survey the entire visible night sky from Hawai’i every two nights. We use these to identify early-time astrophysical transients such as gravitational wave sources and rare supernovae. We also use the photometry and images obtained to investigate the surfaces and activity of asteroids, comets and other bodies in our Solar system.
Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) – The QUB Astrophysics Research Centre led a consortium of UK universities and institutes to deliver the cameras for DKIST. Located on the island of Maui, DKIST is the largest solar telescope in the world and is expected to begin science operations in late 2021. Key advances in its instrumentation, over those available in other facilities, include ultra-high spatial (25 km on the solar surface) and temporal (millisec) resolution, high resolution imaging spectroscopy and coronal magnetometry. The DKIST off-axis design combined with its infrared capabilities will reduce scattered light and produce unprecedented polarimetry for accurate measurements of the coronal magnetic field. The DKIST first-light science objectives are at the core of the QUB solar physics research programmes.
Dunn Solar Telescope (DST) – The DST is a 0.76m solar telescope situated in the Sacramento Peak mountains of New Mexico, USA. It is home to the Rapid Oscillations in the Solar Atmosphere (ROSA) and Hydrogen-alpha Rapid Dynamics camera (HARDcam) instruments built in-house by the Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) at QUB. We use the DST for high cadence observations of quiet Sun, network, and active region locations, and can accumulate in excess of 4TB of data per hour. These data are utilised by our undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as our postdoctoral and academic research staff, and have resulted in discoveries of important phenomena, such as Alfvén wave shocks and resonance cavities.
European Southern Observatory (ESO) – We are active and high-profile users of the major ESO facilities. At Paranal Observatory we use the four 8.2m unit telescopes of the VLT to support all our primary observational programmes. With the NTT (New Technology Telescope) at la Silla Observatory, we ran the PESSTO/ePESSTO public supernovae surveys, and are centrally involved in the new SOXS (Son Of X-Shooter) instrument. ESO is currently constructing the 39-m Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) with first light expected in 2027.
GREGOR - The 1.5 meter-aperture GREGOR is the largest solar telescope in Europe located on the island of Tenerife. Its instrumentation suite includes the Grating Infrared Spectrograph (GRIS) equipped with an integral field unit which provides access to a wealth of magnetic field diagnostics without a compromise between temporal resolution and spatial coverage. QUB is making extensive use of GREGOR through the SOLARNET open access programme for studies of small-scale photospheric magnetic fields.
HARPS-N – The HARPS-N spectrograph is a copy of the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial-velocity Precision Spectrograph) that has led the world in the discovery of new extra-solar planets and is mounted at the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo. QUB is a member of the HARPS-N project alongside Harvard, Geneva, St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and Italian institutes, with a goal of confirming low-mass planets identified by transit survey missions such as Kepler and TESS.
Isaac Newton Group (ING) – Comprising the 4.2m William Herschel telescope and the 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope, we use the imaging and spectroscopic capabilities of these facilities for a range of projects within ARC
Liverpool Telescope – This 2.0m robotic telescope on La Palma is used by ARC astronomers for rapid observations and monitoring of new astrophysical sources such as astrophysical transients and comets, plus studies of exoplanets.
Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) – NGTS is a wide-field photometric survey designed primarily to discover and characterise transiting exoplanets of Neptune-size and smaller around bright stars. Employing an array of 12 small fully-robotic telescopes operating at red-optical wavelengths and situated in the Atacama Desert at the La Paranal site in Chile, NGTS has already discovered multiple new planetary systems.
QUB Teaching Observatory – established in 2017, the observatory houses a 35cm Schmidt-Cassegrain Reflector that is used for Level 4 (MSci) projects, plus occasional stargazing nights. Additionally, we have 2 portable 15cm telescopes and a 6cm solar telescope that we use for Level 3 projects.
Terra Hunting Experiment – The Terra Hunting Experiment is an ambitious 10-year radial-velocity survey for Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars and will be the most intensive search ever attempted for Earth-analogues when it begins in 2022. Currently, as part of this experiment, QUB is helping to build the HARPS-3 spectrograph that will be mounted on the 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma (which will also be fully refurbished and roboticised before the survey begins).
Vera C. Rubin Observatory / LSST:UK - Expected to start in 2024, this international facility will carry out the widest and deepest optical survey to date, the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). LSST is expected to produce up to ten million identifications of transient/variable sources per night. In addition to discovering thousands to hundreds of thousands of explosive transients, LSST will discover and monitor millions of asteroids and tens of thousands of distant Solar System bodies. Collaborating with the University of Edinburgh, ARC researchers are building Lasair, the UK’s alert broker for alerts generated by the Rubin Observatory
VULCAN, Orion, OMEGA – we use these high-power laser facilities, in a collaboration with staff in the Centre for Plasma Physics, to generate strongly ionised plasmas that mimic those found in accretion-powered X-ray sources, such as X-ray binaries and active galactic nuclei (AGN).
Comet Interceptor – the first F-class European Space Agency (ESA) mission planned to explore an inbound dynamically new long-period comet (or possibly an interstellar object). After its launch with ESA’s ARIEL mission in late 2029, Comet Interceptor will wait at the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point L2 and move to a fly-by trajectory once a suitable comet is found. Shortly before the fly-by, the multi-element spacecraft will separate providing multiple viewing angles and perspectives of the comet during closest approach.
Euclid – Euclid is an ESA medium class space mission, expected to launch in 2022. The mission focuses on understanding the nature of dark energy and dark matter by probing the expansion of the universe and evolution of cosmic structures.
Hera – The first ESA planetary defence mission, it will launch in 2024 and rendezvous with the Didymos/Dimorphos asteroid system in 2026, accurately measuring the outcome of the NASA DART mission and performing the first in-depth characterisation of a binary asteroid as a by-product.
PLATO – The PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations (PLATO) experiment is a ~€500M European Space Agency mission. Due to launch in 2026, PLATO represents the first mission with an explicit goal to identify the transits of Earth-analogue planets (Earth-like planets orbiting Sun-like stars).
Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) – SDO is NASA’s flagship mission to study the Sun. Launched in 2010, its primary goal is to understand the nature of solar variability over a range of timescales, and the associated impacts on the terrestrial atmosphere. It addresses this goal by observing how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured, and how it is ultimately converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace environment in the form of solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in the solar irradiance. Solar scientists at QUB have been using SDO data to investigate the heating of the solar corona, waves and oscillations, and solar flares.