Far Infrared Astronomy - Dr. Neil Trappe

Part of the Terahertz Optics and Technology Group

The Herschel Space Observatory (HSO) was launched in 2009 by the European Space Agency (ESA). It observes the cold Universe at submillimetre wavelengths producing observations of the spectral lines of water, and other important atomic and molecular species. We are responsible for the optical analysis of one of three instruments: HIFI - the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared. We have analysed and developed the optical receiver design as part of the international consortium with the Space Research Organisation of the Netherlands (SRON). Our contribution to the design/definition phase of the instrument was in the areas of computational electromagnetics, modelling of the front-end optics and feed horn antennas.

The HIFI Flight Model is now assembled and tested. We are participating in the pre and post-launch testing and calibration of the instrument which will be central to the ultimate success of the science programme.Another project the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array) astronomy array will be completed by 2012 in the Chile. It will be one of the world-class astronomy facilities of the near future, consisting of 66 separate 12-m antennas working as an interferometer. ALMA is designed to uncover the astronomical mysteries previously unobservable at other wavelengths. It will be capable of seeing star-forming galaxies throughout the entire Universe, star-forming regions across our Galaxy, and planet forming regions in our solar neighbourhood at submillimetre wavelengths.

We are responsible for the optical analysis of the receivers being developed for use in Band 5 (163-211GHz) and 9 (602-720GHz) of ALMA. Each receiver is highly specialised, cryogenically cooled, state of the art system involving "quasi-optical" components whose design and configuration is critical. We contribute a series of analytical techniques so the optics of the telescope and receiver are rigorously assessed, understood and optimised to produce the most efficient telescope and receiver possible.

Post-graduate research

Opportunities exist in the group at both the graduate student and post-doctoral level. Enquiries: contact Dr. Neil Trappe.