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SPIE plenary talks highlight major astronomy efforts

From Antarctic observatories to the JWST, SPIE Astronomical Telescopes highlighted all aspects of instrumentation, led by these plenary presentations.
5 July 2012, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.2201207.01

Didier Queloz Exoplanets: unraveling a new paradigm
Prof. Didier Queloz, Geneva Univ., Observatory of Geneva (Switzerland)

Until recently, the solar system provided the only basis for our knowledge of planets and life in the universe. This changed with the discovery in 1995 of the first giant planet outside the solar system. The discovery has spawned a real revolution in astronomy both in terms of new instrumentation and understanding of planet formation and evolution.

John Storey
Antarctic astronomy
Prof. John W. V. Storey
, The Univ. of New South Wales (Australia)

Antarctic astronomy is now a vigorous and rapidly expanding field, with new observatories being built in some of the harshest and most remote locations on earth. In addition to the ground-based photon observatories, Antarctica also hosts major particle astrophysics facilities such as IceCube, and is the launch site for long-duration balloons carrying a multitude of experiments for cosmic microwave background, terahertz, and cosmic ray science.


Werner Hofmann Very high energy gamma-ray astronomy with the HESS telescopes
Prof. Werner Hofmann
, Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik (Germany)

In the last decade, very high energy (VHE) gamma ray astronomy, at photon energies of 100 GeV and beyond, has developed in giant steps, with the number of known cosmic VHE gamma ray sources now well over 100. As the first system of large imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes, the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) in Namibia has contributed significantly to this development. The presentation briefly introduces the Cherenkov technique and the performance of the instrument, and reviews the various types of VHE gamma ray sources discovered with H.E.S.S.

Paolo de Bernardis The cosmic microwave background: observing directly the early universe
Prof. Paolo De Bernardis
, Univ. degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza (Italy)

The cosmic microwave background (CMB)  is observed by means of microwave and mm-wave telescopes, and its measurements drove the development of ultra-sensitive bolometric detectors, sophisticated modulators, and advanced cryogenic and space technologies. This presentation focuses on the new frontiers of CMB research and the challenges remaining to enable further discoveries.

Heidi Hammel The James Webb Space Telescope: Science update and status
Dr. Heidi B. Hammel, AURA Inc. (United States)

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) scientific equipment will include several cameras to produce amazing images in the tradition of Hubble. JWST will see the first galaxies to form in the universe, and explore how stars are born and develop planetary systems. It will examine planets around other stars to investigate their potential for life, and study planets within our own Solar System. This innovative telescope represents a major step forward in technology, with a segmented mirror three times larger than Hubble that operates a million miles away in the cold, dark environment of Earth's Lagrange 2 point.

Thijs de GraauwALMA construction and early science
Dr. Thijs de Graauw, Joint ALMA Observatory (Chile)

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an international radio observatory under construction in northern Chile. It is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is a combination of two arrays of high-precision submm antennas. ALMA will provide the astronomical community with a (sub)mm facility with a wide range of capabilities to address key questions in all areas of astronomy. It will provide (sub)mm images with Hubble-type detail, at a velocity resolution of ~100m/s over wide bandwidths, with great sensitivity and fidelity.