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Expect a ‘fantastic showcase of ideas’ at SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation

01 June 2012

Amsterdam JPEG
The astronomical instrumentation community will gather in Amsterdam in July for a biannual meeting to hear updates and share insights on projects large and small.

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation 2012 promises to be a "fantastic showcase of the world's ideas and technologies for enabling astronomical research," predicted Mark Casali (European Southern Observatory), who chairs the symposium this year with Kathryn Flanagan (Space Telescope Science Institute). The biannual event will run 1-6 July at the Amsterdam RAI Convention Center, with more than 2,200 technical presentations complemented by a program of professional development courses and the largest exhibition in this event series, with over 80 companies.

The area of innovative telescope design is especially strong at this year's event, Casali said, with the most recent innovation being the development of technology allowing telescopes to break the 8-meter barrier. Presentations will cover all the major projects underway, including the James Webb Space Telescope, Kepler exoplanet survey, Hess telescopes, and others.

Conferences will cover technology advances in high-energy, infrared, far-infrared, and other detectors; adaptive optics systems; and updates on most of the major telescopes in use or under construction. Topics include observatory operations, optical and infrared interferometry, solar telescope design, photometric and other data processing, modeling and simulation, and mirror coatings.

Several papers -- including a featured talk at the all-conference dinner by ESO's Jason Spyromilio -- will provide progress updates on the ESO's E-ELT European Extremely Large Telescope. Nearing completion as the ESO celebrates its 50th anniversary, the E-ELT is being built atop Cerro Armazones, a mountain 3,060 meters above the central Atacama Desert in Chile. It will be the world's largest optical/near-infrared telescope and will gather 13 times more light than the largest optical telescopes existing today.

The challenges of managing increasing cost and decreasing availability of funds for large telescope projects are also top of mind for participants in the event's 12 conferences, with related papers addressing topics such as project management, data storage, and testing.

While the astronomical instrumentation landscape is dominated by the high-profile ground- and space-based instruments, from the existing Hubble and VLT to the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope and Thirty Meter Telescope, there are many smaller projects generating important results, Casali pointed out. "The segmented mirror approach has been pioneered on smaller telescopes but becomes the best way of constructing telescopes on scales once thought impossible."

"Critical technologies to exploit our telescope facilities and make major scientific advances include high-order deformable mirrors with thousands of actuators, multi-CCD focal planes resembling sheets of silicon, and large-format IR detectors for both high- and low-background applications," Casali said. 

Featured talks

Plenary talks will provide updates on several major projects as well as other topics:

  • Exoplanets: Unraveling a New Paradigm, by Didier Queloz, Geneva University
  • James Webb Space Telescope: Science Update and Status, by Heidi Hammel, AURA, Inc.
  • The Kepler Exoplanet Survey: Instruments, Performance, and Results, by Thomas Gautier, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
  • Antarctic Astronomy, W. V. Storey, University of New South Wales
  • Very High Energy Gamma Ray Astronomy with the HESS Telescope, Werner Hofmann, Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik
  • The Cosmic Microwave Background: Observing Directly the Early Universe, Paolo De Bernardis, Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza
  • ALMA construction and early science, Thijs de Graauw, Joint ALMA Observatory.

Professional development courses taught by experts from around the world will cover adaptive optics, systems engineering, spectrograph design, instrument materials, and related topics at introductory and intermediate levels.

Sarah Kendrew (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy) will discuss "The Changing Face(s) of Astronomy" at the SPIE Women in Optics presentation and reception. Kendrew will explore how the growing culture of openness and the networked nature of science are driving collaboration throughout and beyond the research community, contributing to a new answer to the question "Who is an astronomer?"

The free-admission exhibition will run 2-4 July, and include key industry suppliers of devices and components for large ground-based telescopes, ground instruments, astronomy information technologies, space telescopes and instruments, detectors, and specialized optics materials and systems.

Conference proceedings will be published individually in the SPIE Digital Library as soon as approved after the meeting, and also in collected print and digital volumes and collections.

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 225,000 constituents from approximately 150 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional growth, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $2.7 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2011.

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