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HIPERCAM Report Summary

Project ID: 340040
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Mid-Term Report Summary - HIPERCAM (HiPERCAM: A high-speed camera for the study of rapid variability in the Universe)

The aim of this ERC Advanced Grant is to design, build, commission and exploit a new astronomical instrument called HiPERCAM. HiPERCAM is a high-speed camera for the study of rapid variability in the Universe, which will allow us to study compact objects of all classes, including black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs, brown dwarfs, exoplanets and the minor bodies of the Solar System. The resulting data will enable us to help answer the questions: What are the progenitors of type Ia supernovae? What are the properties of exoplanet atmospheres? What is the equation of state of the degenerate matter found in white dwarfs and neutron stars? What is the nature of the flow of matter close to the event horizon of black holes? What gravitational wave signals are likely to be detected by the next generation of space-based detectors? What are the properties of the dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt?

HiPERCAM builds on the success of our previous instrument, ULTRACAM, with very significant improvements in performance thanks to the use of the latest technologies. HiPERCAM will use 4 dichroic beamsplitters to image simultaneously in 5 optical channels covering the u'g'r'i'z' optical bands. Frame rates of over 1000 per second will be achievable using an ESO CCD controller (NGC), with every frame GPS timestamped. The detectors are custom-made, frame-transfer CCDs from e2v, with 4 low-noise outputs, mounted in small thermoelectrically-cooled heads operated at 180 K, resulting in virtually no dark current. The two reddest CCDs will be deep-depletion devices with anti-etaloning, providing high quantum efficiencies across the red part of the spectrum with no fringing. The instrument will also incorporate scintillation noise correction via the conjugate-plane photometry technique. The opto-mechanical chassis will make use of additive manufacturing techniques in metal to make a light-weight, rigid and temperature-invariant structure.

The project is currently half way to completion, and is on budget and expected to exceed the specification detailed in my original grant proposal. The detailed instrument design is now complete, all of the major components (CCDs, CCD controller, CCD heads, optics, opto-mechanical chassis) have been ordered, and most of the components have now arrived (with the last few items expected to be delivered in the coming 2 months).
First light is expected on the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope on La Palma in mid 2017 (on which the field of view will be 10' with a 0.3"/pixel scale), with subsequent use planned on the 10.4m Gran Telescopio Canarias on La Palma - the largest telescope in the world (on which the field of view will be 4' with a 0.11"/pixel scale).

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United Kingdom
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