The UK Astronomy Technology Centre
The UK Astronomy Technology Centre (link opens in a new window) (UKATC) has a world-leading track record in the delivery of facility class instrumentation systems. Advances in observational astronomy are very demanding and any proposed new facility is almost certainly a one-off project which must be hundreds, if not thousands, of times better than any predecessor if it is to be funded. Having innovative, creative staff who are up to date on developments in their field is therefore essential. Equally, experience is necessary to turn new ideas into reliable, cost effective solutions.
Solving design challenges
New projects are inspired by the scientific need to detect fainter and more distant objects, and to improve understanding of brighter objects through imaging, spectroscopy and polarimetry. The expertise of staff includes optics and optical design, mechanical design and machining, electronic design and fabrication, real-time computer control and data capture and analysis.
The UK ATC is providing novel design solutions through work in major projects which currently include:
- A key instrument, SCUBA-2 (Submillimetre Common-User Bolometer Array second generation) for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope
- A mid infrared instrument (MIRI) for the James Webb Space Telescope
- The VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) telescope and infrared camera
- A multi object spectrograph (KMOS) for the ESO (European Southern Observatory) very large telescope (VLT) in Chile
The UK ATC is also involved in shaping the future of Europe's next large telescope and is participating in design studies for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E ELT).
Science and research
Research covers a broad range of topics in astronomy, but has special focus on studying dust and planets around nearby stars, galaxy formation and evolution, and nearby young stellar populations.
These research areas are perfect for exploiting the state-of-the-art instruments being built at, or already delivered by, the UKATC to telescopes around the world.
In order to maintain excellent track record, UK ATC need strong links and connections with outside organisations:
- locally and globally;
- in academia and industry;
- within the astronomy community and outside it
- The European Southern Observatory (ESO)
- The Gemini Observatories (North & South)
- The European Space Agency (ESA)
- The Joint Astronomy Centre (JAC)
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
and many others, including those outside of the conventional astronomyareas.
Delivering the current range of complex systems needed by these customers requires large international collaborations. The list of current collaborators is extensive - including universities, national institutes, research centres, and industry. With dedicated project management and systems engineering professionals, the UKATC has considerable experience in successfully leading and participating in many such large projects.
Within our local area the UKATC is part of the Edinburgh Research Partnership in Engineering & Mathematics (ERP) and the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA).
Further afield, UKATC are founding members of both the Photonics Knowledge Transfer Network (PKTN) and the European Network of Optical Clusters (ENOC). Also have close links with many other organisations, networks and research groups globally.
Science and Society
UKATC support an active science and society programme through the work of the Royal Observatory Visitor Centre.
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