HiPERCAM ready to capture the Universe's most rapidly changing objects

HiPERCAM, a revolutionary new high-speed camera for optical astronomy led by the University of Sheffield, has just left the UK for its commissioning run at one of the world's premier astronomical observatories.

HiPERCAM will allow astronomers to study objects in the universe that change rapidly by taking over 1,000 images per second in five different colours simultaneously. Targets such as the dead remnants of stars (white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes), solar system objects and extrasolar planets will be studied with the instrument.

Having completed its final integration and testing at the Science and Technology Facilities Council's UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC), HiPERCAM has now arrived at the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope, part of the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes on La Palma, Canary Islands. The instrument will begin capturing images when it starts its first six-night run on Tuesday 17 October.

In January 2018 it will move to the world's largest telescope, the 10.4m Gran Telescopio Canarias on La Palma, to begin a full programme of observations following a short commissioning period.

HiPERCAM is funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant awarded to Professor Vik Dhillon, Professor of Astrophysics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and is a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield, Warwick, Durham and the UKATC.

As well as leading the overall project, Sheffield have had primary responsibility for the mechanical design and manufacture of the instrument, which was performed in the University of Sheffield's Physics Workshop by a team including Physics Workshop Manager Trevor Gamble and Deputy Manager Simon Dixon.

Sheffield has also led the design and development of the instrument control software (Reader in Astrophysics, Dr Stuart Littlefair), and the IT and networking infrastructure (Astrophysics Research Technician Paul Kerry).



Technical details

HiPERCAM uses custom-made 2Kx1K split-frame transfer CCDs manufactured by e2v, Chelmsford, UK, each mounted in separate small camera heads and cooled to 180K by thermoelectric coolers. The readout system will achieve over 1,000 windows per second using ESO NGC controllers.

Vik Dhillon