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Forthcoming Project Peer Review Panel meeting - October 2019

The October meeting of the Projects Peer Review Panel (PPRP) will take place at Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon, SN2 1UJ on the 7th – 9th October 2019. The Panel will be reviewing five project proposals.

Members of the science community should contact Christopher Carlton on telephone 01793 442004 or e-mail if they would like to attend the open presentation.

The proposals being reviewed are as follows:

7th October 12.00 – 13.15 SO:UK - A major UK contribution to the Simons Observatory

The Simons Observatory (SO) is a US-led international project to construct a group of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) telescopes in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. It is due to begin operations in 2021.

The proposal is for a major UK contribution, composed of two main components. Firstly, the building, deployment, commissioning and operation of an array of three small aperture telescopes (the SO:UK instrument) to complement the existing (US) SO instrument plans. The UK instrument will form a major component of the SO, providing 50% of its sensitivity to primordial B-modes. The additional sensitivity that will be provided by the SO:UK instrument has the potential to bring a compelling class of inflation models within reach, for the first time.

The second component of SO:UK is a major UK contribution to the SO data processing pipeline. The work in this area will comprise (i) developing bespoke low-level processing techniques specifically tailored to the SO:UK KIDs data and (ii) contributions to the wider SO data processing including techniques for analysing the data from the other SO telescopes.

The Panel goes into closed session for the rest of the day.

8th October 10.45 – 11.45 Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit (CASU): Filling the Astronomical Data Lake (2020-2024)

The Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit (CASU) has been at the forefront of survey astronomy, both pioneering techniques to optimally extract knowledge from survey data, and also in taking a proactive role in exploiting this information to produce world-leading research. In the last decade, CASU generated science data products from VISTA, WFCAM and VST imaging and Gaia-ESO VLT spectroscopy have supported world-class research programmes across almost every UK institute involved in astrophysics. CASU are filling the astronomical data lake, the vital data resource which the community are able to mine, combine with other multi-wavelength data (e.g. Euclid, PLATO) and discover rare and unique objects for further detailed study by facilities such as the ELT or the JWST.

This grant proposal builds on the advances already made by CASU and requests funding for the period 2020-2024 for the following activities:

  • Design and development of the data management and analysis systems for the next generation of ESO / ING wide field massively multiplexed optical spectrographs WEAVE, MOONS and 4MOST;
  • Further development, maintenance, operation and user support of the science and analysis pipelines for the UK-led VISTA large scale surveys;
  • Operational support, pipeline processing and further development of the science and analysis pipelines for the UK-led ESO VST public surveys;
  • Deployment of advanced data interfaces to the CASU science data, enabling machine learning assisted mining of the data.

The Panel goes into closed session for the rest of the morning.

8th October 14.45 – 15.45 Wide Field Astronomy Unit (WFAU) Science Archives 2020/23

The UK has a very strong history in survey astronomy and Edinburgh's Wide Field Astronomy Unit (WFAU) has long been at the forefront of this activity, both since its creation in its current guise, in 1999, and in its previous incarnation, as the UK Schmidt Telescope Unit (UKSTU) of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. WFAU has developed science archive systems which store securely data from sky surveys and make them available to users in a flexible manner via the Internet. The main challenges for WFAU in operating these archives are the volumes of data generated by modern sky survey systems, and the necessity of making the data available to users in a way that helps them to exploit those data scientifically. As data volumes increase, users are no longer able to download to their own computers all the data they want to analyse, so an increasing focus of WFAU work is the development of software to perform a set of basic data analysis tasks within the data centre

This proposal is to support WFAU's continuing curation of data from a number of optical/near-infrared imaging and spectroscopic surveys, namely: UK Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS); UKIRT Hemisphere Survey (UHS); VISTA Hemisphere Survey (VHS); VISTA Deep Extragalactic Observations Survey (VIDEO); VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV); VISTA Magellanic Survey (VMC); VISTA Kilo-Degree Infrared Galaxy Survey (VIKING); VST ATLAS; VPHAS+; Gaia-ESO Spectroscopic Survey (GES); VVV eXtended (VVV); Southern H-ATLAS Regions Ks-band Survey (SHARKs); and preparing to curate data for the Multi-Object Optical and Near-IR Spectrograph (MOONS) consortium.

The Panel goes into closed session for the rest of the day.

9th October 10.45 – 12.00 The Gravitational wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO)

The direct detection of gravitational waves using the Ligo gravitational wave detectors in September 2015 was one of humankind's greatest achievements. Gravitational waves offer a route straight to the heart of the most extreme systems in nature and environments that are inaccessible to conventional astronomical techniques. This makes them powerful probes of extreme conditions and beacons to the distant universe. However, gravitational wave detectors are currently not able to accurately pin-point the location in the sky of these waves.

In 2015, the Universities of Warwick and Monash in Australia developed the Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO). The concept was to have a series of telescopes on two mounts allowing the coverage of 100 times the area of the moon in one go. As soon as a gravitational wave was triggered the robotic telescope would start taking images of the part of the sky where the event was expected to be.

This proposal aims to obtain funding so that the GOTO facility on La Palma can be extended to 16 telescopes covering 4 times as much as the prototype and to build a copy of GOTO in Australia. This would allow most of the observable sky to be covered and ensure that an image of the same patch of sky every few days is obtained which is essential to weed out new sources which are not the gravitational wave event but other events such as supernovae, accreting binaries or flare stars.

The Panel goes into closed session for the rest of the morning.

9th October 14.45 – 15.45 An Advanced Charged-Particle Array for the Extreme-Light Infrastructure (ACPA@ELI)

The Advanced Charged-Particle Array (ACPA) is a silicon detector array designed to detect fragments of atomic nuclei created when they are hit by an intense beam of gamma-radiation, a form of extremely hard-hitting light.

The array is proposed to be installed at the next-generation gamma-beam facility, the Extreme-Light Infrastructure - Nuclear Physics (ELI-NP) which is under way in Bucharest, Romania. The facility will provide the most "brilliant" gamma-beam in the world, as the most intense, focussed gamma-beam with an extremely very well-defined energy. Through development of a novel charged-particle detector array for selective detection the fragments emitted when the gamma-rays break up atomic nuclei, a broad range of nuclear science cases will be studied, including how the elements we are made of were created in the Cosmos, from the Big Bang to Supernovae and neutron stars merging in an enormous explosion creating the heaviest elements we know. The new detector facility will also offer new insight into the internal structure and dynamics of atomic nuclei and how these nuclei can be produced for nuclear science and medicine.

The Panel goes into closed session for the rest of the day.

Last updated: 20 September 2019

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