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Cavendish Astrophysics



We are strongly involved in the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) – a worldwide collaborative project to build a high-resolution millimetre-wave telescope in Chile.

Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA)


The primary goal of the AMI Digital Correlator (AMIDC) project is to equip the AMI telescope with a highly channelized digital correlator system giving more flexibility in the location of this band and a much more uniform response across it.

The AMI Small Array

The AMI Small Array


The CAMbridge Emission Line Surveyor (CAMELS) is a pathfinder program to demonstrate on-chip spectrometry at millimetre wavelengths. CAMELS will observe at frequencies from 103–114.7GHz, providing 512 channels with a spectral resolution of R = 3000.


CAMELS detector


The CHaracterizing ExOPlanet Satellite (CHEOPS) will be the first mission dedicated to search for transits by means of ultrahigh precision photometry on bright stars already known to host planets.The CHEOPS project is a partnership between european team members, including the University of Cambridge.


Credit: ESA


We are involved in developing the high resolution spectrometer, HIRES, for the European Extremely Large Telescope(E-ELT),  sited on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile.

E-ELT artist view


The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope, planned for launch in 2018. It is a joint project between NASA, ESA and  CSA. We are heavily involved in NIRSpec, the near infrared multi-object spectrograph. One of the main goals of the instrument is to identify and characterise the first galaxies formed in the early Universe and to track their evolution through the cosmic epoch by delivering the deepest spectra ever obtained for these objects in the near-IR range.



Our pioneering work in optical interferometry has led to our group being partners in the development and construction of a major new instrument, the Magdalena Ridge Optical Interferometer (MROI) being constructed in New Mexico.

Schematic of MROI showing ten telescopes in a close-packed configuration. The shortest baseline in this configuration is 7.5m. Light collected by the telescopes is transported in evacuated beam relay pipes to the Beam Combining Facility building, where the paths travelled by the light from different telescopes are equalised by the delay lines (in the pipes shown top right), before the light beams are interfered on optical tables in the Beam Combining Area.


We are heavily involved in the technical and scientific activities of MOONS,
the near-IR multi-object spectrograph selected by ESO as third generation instrument for the Very Large Telescope.



The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is a wide-field photometric survey designed to discover transiting Neptune-size and smaller exoplanets around bright stars (magnitude V<13). The NGTS project is a partnership between the University of Cambridge, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Warwick, University of Leicester, Observatoire de Geneve, DLR (Berlin) and Universidad Catolica de Chile.


Credit: DLR


Both PAPER and HERA telescopes will explore the cosmic reionization, which corresponds to the epoch in which the first stars and black holes reionize the neutral intergalactic medium (IGM) that pervades the Universe following recombination, within a few hundred million years of the Big Bang. The epoch of reionization, and the preceding ‘dark ages’ prior to the formation of the first stars, represent the last unexplored phases of cosmic evolution to be tested and explored.


Possible HERA configuration


Data analysis in the CMB area has become a highly-developed subject in its own right – jointly with the Institute of Astronomy, we are a designated centre for scientific analysis f data from the Planck Surveyor satellite.


Planck telescope


The Radio Array of Portable Interferometric Detectors (RAPID) is being designed for investigations of ionospheric phenomena, solar radio emission, the Galactic synchrotron background, and ultra-high energy cosmic rays via airshower emission. The array will consist of 50-100 small, low-gain broadband antennas operating below 500 MHz. Unlike existing arrays, RAPID can be operated without any cabling between the antennas and a central location, and can be shipped, deployed and physically reconfigured quickly and easily with zero site infrastructure.


RAPID system


The Radio Experiment for the Analysis of Cosmic Hydrogen (REACH) is a global 21-cm experiment dedicated to the study of the early epochs of the Universe (Cosmic Dawn and the Epoch of Re-ionization). REACH is a radiometer targeting the detection of the redshifted 21-cm Hydrogen line from the time when the first luminous objects in the Universe were formed. 

Artist impression of first stars. Adolf Schaller for STScI.


A further major, and developing, area of the Group’s activity lies in our involvement in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). This is a worldwide endeavour to create a telescope spanning frequencies from 50 MHz up to at least 10 GHz, with a total collecting area of more than 1 square kilometre, and with the possibility of simultaneous observation of many patches on the sky. Such a telescope would enable fundamental advances in many areas of astrophysics and cosmology. Alongside with our work on SKA we participate in the development of precursor and related telescopes. Currently our group is involved in the development of RAPID, a portable interferometer.



Variable Dielectric Delay Lines in Liquid Crystals for Phased Array Feeds

In this project we seek to exploit a novel liquid crystal technology, which allows a controllable true time delay to be applied to an RF signal of frequencies up to tens of GHz. The basic technology has already been demonstrated and has a wide variety of applications. We now intend to use this technology to construct a real astronomical demonstration system for delay lines and show that these can be integrated into the beamforming module of an existing Phased Array Feed (PAF) instrument, dramatically improving its capabilities.


PHAROS array