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Unlocking the mysteries of the formation of our solar system with CHIMERA

Webinar presented byProf. Gregg Hallinan – assistant professor of astronomy, Caltech and Dr Colin Coates – product manager OEM & research, Andor Technology.

Unlocking the mysteries of the formation of our solar system with CHIMERA

22nd September 2016 4pm, BST



The Kuiper belt is a remnant of the primordial solar system. It consists of a disc of icy bodies located at the outskirts of our planetary system, just beyond the orbit of Neptune, and is the likely source of periodic comets. Roughly 2000 Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) have been detected since its discovery in 1992, with the largest objects exceeding 1000 km in diameter (e.g. Eris).

Objects at the distance of the Kuiper belt that are smaller than about 10 km in radius are too faint to be directly imaged in reflected light from the Sun. They can, however, be detected when they pass in front of background stars, partially obscuring the star, resulting in a short dip in the stellar light curve known as an occultation.

An occultation has never been detected from a ground-based telescope, largely because it requires the monitoring of a star in the ecliptic for thousands of hours at a very high frame rate (~40 Hz) to get a single detection. To really make an impact, one has to have an instrument that can observe many such stars simultaneously.

During this webinar we will discuss the development of the Caltech High-Speed Multi-Color Camera (CHIMERA), using two Andor iXon Ultra 888 EMCCDs, for ground-based searches for occultations of sub-kilometre-sized KBOs, which it achieves through monitoring thousands of stars simultaneously.

CHIMERA has completed 20 nights of observing in 2015 and 2016, with an additional 50 nights observing to be completed by July 2018, yielding a final data set likely to have more than 100 occultation events.

For several years, professional astronomers have been looking to Andor as a source of extreme performance, exceptionally robust off-the-shelf detector solutions, utilized across many of the key observation sites worldwide. We will provide an overview of the key high-sensitivity, high-temporal-resolution detector technology types, used in diverse applications such as adaptive optics wavefront sensing, solar exploration, high-time-resolution astrophysics, transit exoplanet discovery, gravitational lensing and even customized guide cameras.