CAR Facilities

CAR is actively involved in new observatory instruments and facilities.

The Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR and LOFAR-UK)

LOFAR is a radio telescope mainly located in the Netherlands. It is the first of the 'new generation' of radio telescopes, where the telescope is able to see the whole sky at once and the amount of sky that is able to be mapped is only dependent on the computing power. LOFAR observes the Universe between 20-240 MHz, with a gap at 80-110MHz which the FM radio band occupies (e.g. Radio 1).

The University of Hertfordshire is one of the UK institutes involved in the LOFAR-UK consortium which has joined the LOFAR project. The UK project has built a LOFAR station in the UK at Chilbolton, allowing higher spatial resolution observations to be made. The key science goals of the LOFAR telescope are to make deep extragalactic surveys to unprecedented sensitivity, map the transient radio sky, detect the neutral hydrogen emission within the Epoch of Reionization, study the Sun and the Solar System. At UH our principal aims focus on the extragalactic surveys and AGN variability from the transient surveys (Hardcastle, Williams), and radio emission from Brown Dwarfs and extrasolar planets (Burningham).

Goonhilly Earth Station: Recycling for Radio Astronomy

Goonhilly radio telescope

UH is one of the partners in the Consortium of Universities for Goonhilly Astronomy (CUGA), a partnership between Leeds, Hertfordshire, Oxford, Manchester and Durham Universities. The dishes at Goonhilly were originally used to receive the first transatlantic TV broadcast, but since then with the advent of more sensitive electronics and broadband optical fibres have become redundant for modern telecommunications purposes. CUGA are working with a commercial partner (Goonhilly Earth Station or GES Ltd) to repurpose the dishes for radio astronomy, both as a single-dish facility, and also to connect the Goonhilly dishes to the UK's e-MERLIN radio network and the European VLBI Network. The geographic location of Goonhilly in Cornwall means that adding Goonhilly to eMerlin doubles the angular resolution and makes it possible to observe
sources much closer to the Celestial Equator.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

The SKA is one of the most ambitious projects in astronomy. The aim is to build a radio telescope with an effective collecting area more than 30 times greater than the largest telescope ever built by around 2020, but with science beginning as soon as the first antennas are brought into operation. Scientifically it will reveal the dawn of galaxy formation, determine the physical properties of the Universe, such as the amount of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, test general relativity to breaking point, make the most comprehensive map of the magnetic fields in the Universe and possibly give us the most direct way of finding extraterrestrial intelligence. The SKA will be built partly in Southern Africa, partly in Australia/New Zealand. Several members of the Centre for Astrophysics Research (Brinks, Hardcastle, Thompson) have (or have had) involvement in SKA related activities, and in SKA precursors such as LOFAR, MeerKAT, ASKAP, and APERTIF.


CanariCam is a diffraction-limited mid-infrared imager with spectroscopic, polarimetric, and coronagraphic options for the 10-m Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC). It was built at the University of Florida, Gainesville and commissioned on the GTC during 2011-12. Hough is a member of the instrument team, with specific responsibility for the polarimetry mode. He is also a member of the Science Team with guaranteed observing time.

SALT High-resolution spectrograph

The SALT-HRS is a high resolution (R~50,000) echelle spectrograph being constructed by Durham University for use at the 10-metre SALT telescope in South Africa. Ryan is an external project scientist, with responsibility for ensuring that the completed instrument meets the requirements of the science projects that the instrument will undertake.


CAR has a long-standing historical interest in polarimeters, although we are no longer involved in instrument construction ourselves. Some details of our past efforts can be found here.