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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

The galactic astrophysics mission Gaia, was launched by the European Space Agency in December 2013. From its position beyond the lunar orbit, it surveys the stellar content of a large part of the Milky Way Galaxy, 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, Sofia Feltzing, Gregory Traven, David Hobbs, Paul McMillan, Ross Church, Nils Ryde.

The 4MOST consortium is building a massively multiplex spectrograph with which we will observe tens of millions of stars in the Milky Way to obtain their stellar properties, including elemental abundances, temperatures, stellar ages and orbits within the Galaxy. With such such 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, Sofia Feltzing

WEAVE is a collaboration of scientific institutes in the UK, France and The Netherlands to build a multiplex spectrograph for the William Herchel Telescope and to carry out a five year survey of stars and galaxies with this new instrument. In Lund Observatory a small team lead by Sofia Feltzing and Thomas Bensby participate in this project.

Planetary systems with CHEOPS

Researchers include:  Alexander J. Mustill

CHEOPS is a European Space Agency 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.