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Space missions & instrumentation

At Lund Observatory we have a long tradition of both instrument and telescope development. This tradition continues today as our astronomers are involved in several big international collaborations to both design and use the observing tools of tomorrow. Here are a few examples:

Gaia - the billion star surveyor

Researchers include:  Lennart Lindegren, David Hobbs, Paul McMillan, Eero Vaher

The galactic astrophysics mission Gaia, was launched by the European Space Agency, ESA, in December 2013. From its position beyond the lunar orbit, it surveys the stellar content of a large part of the Milky Way, with the ultimate goal to trace the origin and evolution of our galaxy and understand its present structure.

The satellite is a unique and powerful optical space observatory, combining large-scale photometric and radial-velocity surveys with determinations of stellar distances and transverse motions through microarcsecond astrometry for more than a billion stars brighter than V = 20. Parallax and proper motion accuracies are such that the space densities and kinematics of common tracer stars (e.g. K giants) can be accurately mapped across the whole Galaxy.

For more information on the mission and its current status, please refer to the Gaia science portal:

4MOST - Massive spectroscopic surveys of the Milky Way and the Universe

Researchers include:  Thomas Bensby, Ross Church, David Hobbs, Michal Pawlak, Nils Ryde

The 4MOST consortium is building a massively multiplex spectrograph which will sit at ESO's VISTA telescope in Chile. With 4MOSt we will be able to observe tens of millions of stars in the Milky Way and obtain their stellar properties, including elemental abundances, temperatures, stellar ages and orbits. With this data we will be able to trace the formation history of our home galaxy.

WEAVE - a massively multiplex spectrograph for the William Herschel Telescope and associated surveys

Researchers include:  Thomas Bensby

WEAVE is a collaboration of scientific institutes in the UK, France and the Netherlands that with joint forces had constructed a multiplex spectrograph for the William Herchel Telescope (La Palma, Spain). At the 4-metre telecope, WEAVE will carry out a five year survey of stars and galaxies, and its vantage point from the Northern Hemisphere is crucial for targeting the outer disk of the Milky Way. Lund Observatory is part of WEAVE's Galactic Archaeology survey, which will be unique; no other existing or proposed optical facility can provide a survey to similar depth or spectral resolution, while the southern sky inaccessible to WEAVE will be covered by ESO's forthcoming 4MOST facility (see above).

Planetary systems with CHEOPS

Researchers include:  Alexander J. Mustill, Judith Korth

CHEOPS is a European Space Agency, ESA, satellite dedicated to characterising extra-Solar planets and planetary systems. It observes the transits of such planets as they pass in front of the star, blocking out the star’s light. The exquisite precision afforded by a space-based platform allows for an accurate determination of a planet’s radius and therefore density, as well as a detection of “transit timing variations” as planets gently pull on each other’s orbits. Particularly in systems containing multiple planets, these observations provide important information for our models of planetary system formation and evolution.