In astrophysics, spectroscopy is the most fruitful way to understand the physical processes operating in astronomical objects. The CfAI specialises in a form of spectro-imaging or hysperspectral imaging called Integral Field Spectroscopy (IFS) which provides spectra for each part of a contiguous field simultaneously. This is also useful for bio-medical science when studying short-lived samples under the microscope.
IFS can be implemented in a variety of technologies. We specialise in both the leading methods: lensed fibre bundles and monolithic micro-mirror arrays. Our IFS instrumentation was the first on any 8-10m class telescope (in GMOS) and will fly aboard the James Webb Space Telescope (in NIRSpec). Our designs and techniques have been adopted as the paradigm for most new spectral-imaging instruments including those for the next generation of Extremely Large Telescopes.
In addition we are pioneering specialists in multiobject spectroscopy which allows vast surveys of galaxies to measure the equation of state of the universe or of stars to understand the formation of the stellar component of galaxies via "galactic archaeology". We have built systems, with our partners, that use both multi-fibre and multi-slit technology.
A new technique which combines IFS with MOS to generate arbitrary patterns of spatial elements within a large field is under development: Diverse FIeld Spectroscopy (DFS). Already nearing implementation is the use of multiple integral field units (IFUs) deployed around a larger field using articulated arms (KMOS).
We also build specialised spectrographs for single objects for example where high stability is required for searches for extra-solar planets and study the dispersing optics required (e.g. Volume Phase Holographic gratings).
Finally, we plan to harness new photonic technology developed by the telecommunications industry to improve the performance of our instruments. Indeed it may turn out that ELT instrumentation will be heavily dependent on Astrophotonics.